A complete recording of Marin Marais’ Pièces de Viole? A note by Jérôme Lejeune

Published on 08/12/2015

As a prelude to the vast enterprise represented by the release of Marin Marais’ complete five Books of Pièces de Viole, François Joubert-Caillet proposes this anthology of some of the most famous pieces that the illustrious gambist of La Chambre du Roi wrote for the delight of the Sun King’s private concerts.

A complete recording of Marin Marais’ Pièces de Viole?

Ricercar has embarked upon a large-scale recording project with the violist François Joubert-Caillet: the complete recording of Marin Marais’ five Livres de Pièces de Viole . This is, of course, a major project and as such will necessarily take several years. This will allow us sufficient time not only to deal with Marais’ immense body of work in detail and the presentation of this vast body of work, but also to arrive at the peace of mind and freshness of inspiration that such a project demands.

Their seeming unity notwithstanding, these five volumes of works — published over a period of some forty years, between 1686 and 1725 — contain all the elements necessary for us to follow the development of this particularly French musical language in detail. Marin Marais has been too often considered merely to have been violiste de la Chambre du Roi  for Louis XIV, although Louis predeceased him by ten years; his two last Livres de Pièces de Viole  were both composed after the death of Le Roi Soleil . Are these two books so different from his three earlier publications? Given that Marais was sixty-nine years old when he published his final volume, does that not make him the last representative of a fast-disappearing art? A chronological exploration of these five books will allow us to follow Marais’ artistic development and, finally, to provide answers to the above questions.

We now present these Pièces favorites  as we await the conclusion of the above project. The pieces we have chosen have been taken from all five books and are amongst the most well-known of Marais’ works, both by their use in the film Tous les Matins du Monde  and by recordings of them that have become legendary. These include not only the early recordings made by August Wenzinger, Wieland Kuijken and Jordi Savall but later ones as well, the recording made by the greatly missed Sophie Watillon in particular.

‘We’ve finished recording the first book of the Pièces de Viole and have started on the second.

The first book will be released in the beginning of 2017 - you’ll be hearing from us!’

“ When Jérôme Lejeune, the head of the Ricercar label, first had the idea that I should record Marin Marais’ Pièces de Viole  in their entirety, I quite simply thought that he was joking. Marin Marais was one of the greatest composers to write for the viola da gamba, thanks to the incredibly high quality of his music and the immense body of work represented by these five books. The idea of taking on such a mammoth project was simply crazy and I had never even given it a moment’s thought before — although the first flirtation with the idea soon became passionately exciting, its challenges being commensurate with the admiration I feel for the composer.

Marin Marais is known and respected as a composer, but upon what is this recognition based? Are a film, a biography and splendid recordings enough to describe his talent? As I delved ever deeper into Marais’ music, I soon realised that the breadth of Marais’ genius went far beyond what we believe we know of him. One simple question soon arose: what if we have only so far merely scratched the surface of what there is to know about him?” (François JOUBERT-CAILLET)