Paolo Pandolfo performs Marais’ viola de gamba music

'Few gambists are better versed in this repertoire than Paolo Pandolfo, whose playing is supple, poetic, effortless.'

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Marin Marais
LABELS: Glossa
ALBUM TITLE: Marais 1689
WORKS: Suites in D minor & G; Sujet Divesitez; Rondeau in A minor; Tombeau de Mr Meliton, etc
PERFORMER: Paolo Pandolfo, Amélie Chemin (viola da gamba), Thomas Boysen (theorbo, Baroque guitar), Markus Hünniger (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: Glossa GCD 920415

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Marin Marais – the Sun King’s legendary viol virtuoso – published his first book of Pièces for one or two solo viols in 1686, adding continuo accompaniments to them three years later. We hear extracts from both publications here, offsetting the intimate, introspective sound of a single viol with the extrovert and colourful ensemble versions.

All pervasive is the graceful courtly dance music beloved of Louis XIV, while Marais’s characteristically wistful style drifts through preludes and sarabandes, and darkens his melancholy ‘musical epitaph’ to an admired dilettante gambist. We also hear the little-known Sujet Diversitez, which interweaves passages of brooding intensity with virtuosic display – the viol player’s equivalent in terms of technique to Paganini.

Few gambists are better versed in this repertoire than Paolo Pandolfo, whose playing is supple, poetic, effortless. For the ensembles, he’s joined by three accomplished musicians, all fully conversant with Marais’s intricate idiom. Pandolfo and fellow gambist Amélie Chemin dialogue and vie delightfully in the pieces for two viols, and Hünninger and Boysen’s continuo realisations have all the finesse and sparkle of a Baroque jewel-box. In their hands, the music breathes and dances. My one small caveat is that the open recorded balance, in a resonant church acoustic, lacks somewhat in warmth and definition.

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Kate Bolton‑Porciatti