The Strad Issue: January 2006
Musicians: Ensemble Spirale
Composer: Marais

This CD concentrates on Marais’s Deuxième livre de pièces, published in 1701 but comprising music from the previous 20 years. The opening Folies, a first version of which is found in a manuscript from around 1680, was revised and extended by Marais for publication. In this recording, the Spanish theme is appropriately accompanied by the strains of a guitar at its first appearance. I was slightly unsettled by the broad arpeggiations used here by the violist Marianne Muller, which make it difficult to recognise the typical folie rhythm (the treatment of the chords in the similar Sarabande à l’espagnole from the Suite is much more convincing).

I don’t want to give the wrong impression when I say that the variegated instrumentation of the continuo is one of this recording’s joys, but the selective use of harpsichord, guitar and theorbo alongside a second viol does make a great contribution towards underlining the changing character of the different movements. Interestingly, many ensembles have emerged recently that are technically a continuo group, for example Tragicomedia, the Harp Consort or Hamburger Ratsmusik.

Prima inter pares, Muller is unfazed by the intricately embellished lines of the more virtuosic movements, while plumbing the emotional depths of the Tombeau pour M. de Sainte-Colombe from the Suite (this movement gives the lie to any notions of jealousy between Marais and his teacher as proposed in the film Tous les matins du monde). I was much taken with Muller’s beautiful (and beautifully selective) use of vibrato. The recorded sound is appropriately intimate, and the CD cover is attractively adorned by Anne Peultier’s abstract paintings.   

Carlos María Solare