Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Marais - Suitte d'un Gout Etranger - Savall et al

Rating: 5/5

A gem of a double CD

This is an absolute gem of a double CD. The music is for accompanied viola da gamba, published in 1717 by the great master of the instrument of the time, and played by one of its great present-day masters. This great "Suitte" contains over thirty very varied pieces, every one of them hugely enjoyable and full of melody and rich, satisfying harmonic invention.

Savall made a very fine recording of a number of these pieces in the late 1970s with Ton Koopman and Hopkinson Smith, and it's a disc which I have treasured for years. This is a much larger affair - far more music and a larger ensemble, which works wonderfully well. The musicians are all truly excellent (including harpsichordist Pierre Hantai and harpist Andrew Lawrence-King, both real stars of this repertoire) and I found the variety of different instruments used in various pieces really spellbinding, ranging from solo viola da gamba to a full chamber ensemble. Percussion is used only very occasionally, but when it is, as in the Marche on CD2, its effect is really fabulous. Savall himself excels, bringing a lovely sound from his viola da gamba and playing with an effortless virtuosity which is feather-light or full of weight as appropriate. It is wonderful music-making.

The recorded sound is excellent, the notes full and informative and the presentation is up to Alia Vox's usual beautiful standard. The whole thing is a huge pleasure and I recommend it very warmly.

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