La Gracieuse: Pièces de Viole by Marin Marais

Robert Smith gamba, Israel Golani guitar/theorbo, Joshua Cheatham gamba, Olivier Fortin harpsichord
resonus RES10244

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Virtuoso gambist Robert Smith is joined here by a superb consort in imaginative and supremely musical performances of four of Marais’ suites for viol and continuo. Never one to rush the music he is playing, Smith imbues this wonderfully eloquent repertoire with the time to breathe and the results are truly revelatory. Ever since Gerard Depardieu’s appearance in the film Tous les Matins du Monde brought Marais’ music to a wider audience, it has frequently featured on CD, but not always as well and expressively played as it is here. The continuo ensemble of guitar/theorbo, gamba and harpsichord allows for subtle changes in instrumentation to reflect the mood of the melody. I am less convinced by the employment of a deep drum in some of the more rustic sounding movements – surely Marais would have been using the viol itself to imitate the sounds of a traditional band? I am prepared to overlook this in light of the very imaginative approach taken to Marais’ music, which otherwise sounds utterly convincing to me. The rich resonance of the Lutherse Kerk in Groningen provides a spectacular resonance for Smith’s ringing viol tone and the resonus engineers have done a fine job in capturing the sound so vividly.

D. James Ross

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