Marais: Pièces de viole du IV livre (1717): Suitte d’un Goût Etranger; Pièces de viole – Book 2: Les Folies d’Espagne; Suite in E minor; Book 4: Le Labyrinthe

COMPOSERS: Marais
LABELS: Alia Vox; Zig Zag
ALBUM TITLE: Marais
WORKS: Pièces de viole du IV livre (1717): Suitte d’un Goût Etranger; Pièces de viole – Book 2: Les Folies d’Espagne; Suite in E minor; Book 4: Le Labyrinthe
PERFORMER: Jordi Savall, Philippe Pierlot (basse de viole), Pierre Hantaï (harpsichord), Rolf Lislevand, Xavier Díaz-Latorre (theorbos, guitars), Andrew Lawrence-King (harp), Pedro Estevan (percussion); Ensemble Spirale/Marianne Muller (viole de gambe)
CATALOGUE NO: AVSA 9851 (CD/SACD hybrid) ZZT060801
So perennially youthful is his playing

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that it brings you up with a start to

read Jordi Savall’s reminiscences of

discovering Marin Marais back in

1959! Thirty years ago he started to

record the music, and just in time

for Marais’s 350th anniversary year

he returns to the Suitte d’un Goût

Etranger and to all 33 pieces of a set

he asserts represents the genius of

Marais’s art at its ‘fullest expression’.

Anniversary tributes don’t come

more wholehearted. Even without thesuperb SACD sound the notes leap

out of the speakers. This is repertoire

Savall has grown up with, grown

through indeed, and to which he

returns with enthusiasm enflamed.

It’s not hard to see why. With its

piquant character pieces the Suitte

is a gift to a performer with Savall’s

instinctive flair – from the raspy

wheeze of the ‘asthmatic’ Allemande

to the gruff swagger of the ‘Marche

Tartare’, the quasi operatic scena

of ‘Le Labyrinthe’ to the frothy

intercourse of ‘Le badinage’.

He’s not afraid to include percussion

in a continuo. Thus does the ‘Feste

Champêtre’ twinkle, thrumming

guitar enriching the mix. Savall

takes the technical difficulties in his

stride; there’s no hint of strain. Above

all, despite Savall’s pivotal role, you

quickly sense that here are a group

of musicians, perfectly attuned to

the music in hand, putting their

rehearsal pencils to one side, and

letting their hair down.

In another postbag, perhaps,

Ensemble Spirale’s disc majoring on

the Second Book of Viol Pieces might

have made more of an impression.

Director/Gambist Marianne Muller

plays with Savall’s Hesperion XXI,

and here includes that twisting and

turning ‘Labyrinthe’ from Book

4. But the shadow of Savall falls

long and unhelpfully. Her ‘Follia’

Variations set the thermostat several

degrees below his earlier recording,

and a thoughtful account of the

E minor Suite culminates in a

performance of the great ‘Tombeau’

to Saint Colombe somewhat two

dimensional. Savall’s Marais,

meanwhile, is already one of the

major releases of the baroque year.

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