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Marin MARAIS: "Fantaisie champestre - Pièces en trio"

Ensemble Rebel

rec: May 1994, Schloß Nordkirchen, Oranienburg
deutsche harmonia mundi - 74321 935512 (R) (© 2002) (61'44")
Liner-notes: E/D/F

Pièces en trio in C; Pièces en trio in D; Pièces en trio in g minor

Jörg-Michael Schwarz, Karen Marie Marmer, violin; Gail Ann Schroeder, viola da gamba; Pieter Dirksen, harpsichord

The trio sonata was one of the most important and popular genres of the baroque era. It is mostly associated with the Italian type, in which the two upper parts are of equal importance, supported by the basso continuo. This kind of trio sonata was composed in most parts of Europe, and also in France since the beginning of the 18th century, when the Italian style gained ground in France and influenced more and more composers.

But before that the trio sonata was known in France, but its structure was different from its Italian counterpart. In the French trio sonata the part of the first melody instrument was dominant, and it consisted of (mostly dance) movements which were not strongly connected.

Among the earliest collections of this kind of trio sonatas are the Trios de la Chambre by Jean-Baptiste Lully, which were compiled in 1670. The were also known as Trios pour le coucher du Roy, referring to their use for the ceremony of the royal bedtime. Most pieces were dances, which were originally composed as part of Lully's operas. The collection contains 47 pieces, 16 of which were written by Marin Marais, who was a pupil of Lully. He was to become famous first and foremost as a virtuoso on the viola da gamba, although he also composed operas, of which Alcyone became especially successful.

The trios on this disc are from the collection Pièces en trio pour les Flûtes, Violon & Dessus de Viole of 1692, which contains revised versions of the trios from Lully's collection of 1670. These pieces are technically considerably less demanding than Marais's compositions for the viola da gamba, the first book of which was published in 1686. It is therefore likely that these trios were written for amateurs rather than professional musicians at Louis XIV's court.

As the title indicates these pieces can be played on all kind of instruments. The part books reflect this, as they only described as premier dessus and second dessus respectively. In this recording only violins are used, which is a little disappointing. A greater variety in the instrumentation would have made this recording more colourful and would have been a more accurate reflection of the performance practice of the time.

But the performances by the Ensemble Rebel are brilliant. There is a great intensity in the violin playing, and more attention to dynamic shades than in most performances of French music. There is certainly no lack of expression here. One of the highlights is the 'Plainte' from the Pièces in g minor. For everyone interested in this kind of music this disc is not to be missed, in particular as it is reissued at budget price.

Johan van Veen (© 2006)

Relevant links:

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