WORKS: Grand ballet: Gamba Suite in A; Gamba Suite in C; Gamba Suite in D; Improvisation; Couplets de folies
PERFORMER: Paolo Pandolfo, Guido Balestracci (viola da gamba), Thomas Boysen, Dolores Costoyas (theorbo, guitar), Mitzi Meyerson (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 920406
Grand ballet is an apt title for Paolo Pandolfo’s latest release, reflecting not only Marais’s predilection for dance music but also the fact that he was reported to play the viol ‘with his bow always in the air’. The same might be said of Paolo Pandolfo, whose lithe, balletic style and iridescent sound distinguish him from his peers. He’s supported, too, by a brilliant continuo group, whose daring, stylish realisations contribute to performances which are at once ebullient and intoxicating.
Perhaps less well-known to British audiences is the viol-player Jean-Louis Charbonnier, though these discs reveal an accomplished musician who pays great attention to Marais’s meticulous technical and expressive instructions, and who – unusually – offers the suites complete. Charbonnier and his ensemble produce a rich, weighty sound, and their approach is rather more traditional than Pandolfo’s and occasionally a touch earthbound. The smoky-voiced Jean-Pierre Marielle recites the movement titles and the descriptive headings of Marais’s musical depiction of an operation to remove a gallstone. And just to prove that the French Baroque world wasn’t all courtly elegance and politesse, the CD booklet includes a photo of the four musicians taking a leak and a lengthy essay on the history of piss and wind. How apposite. Kate Bolton