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GRAMOPHONE (02/1988)
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Livre V

E 7708


Reviewer: Julie Anne Sadie

Among present-day viol players, the names of Wieland Kuijken and Jordi Savall are synonymous with the finest interpretations of the French baroque repertory, just as those of Marin Marais and Antoine Forqueray were in their day. It would be too facile to draw any closer analogy between these pairs of players, although it has been observed that, much as was said of their French predecessors, the Belgian can play like a saint and the Spaniard like a man possessed. Kuijken and Savall have appeared together in concert and are, presumably, friends as well as colleagues; it is therefore a surprise and a delight that they should simultaneously feature on CDs of pieces from the same book of Marin Marais (though Saval's was recorded nearly five years ago).

Marais's final book, of 114 pièces de viole, appeared in 1725, three years before his death, and represents a miscellany of hitherto unpublished works. Le tableau de /'operation de la taille ("The Gallstone Operation") is undoubtedly the best-known work of this collection, and the deeply personal tombeau for his own dead son is among his most moving works; both these pieces are recorded by each of the players along with movements from the G minor Suite. Kuijken's selection from the G minor Suite is shorter but he follows it with several pieces in G major -a chaconne, the Dialogue, Le jeu du volant and La poitevine which serve to remind us that he can also be relaxed and amusing as well as beautifully controlled and profound; he also gives a Suite in A minor. Savall offers the Suite in E minor which includes a delightfully eccentric and somewhat ferociously executed Persian march.

Their playing in the opening G minor Prelude reflects most succinctly the differences in style between these two interpreters: Kuijken's version is truly gravement, exquisitely pathetic as only a piece de viole can be, and performed with characteristic attention to beauty of sound and perfection of style; Savall's is quicker, shapely and elegant, replete with rather pungent flowery mordents (sounding all too like upside-down trills) which only he can get away with. In the Fantaisie that follows, Savall's jaunty, lighter interpretation captures the essence of what is actually an alternative first movement , though the beauty and control of Kuijken's version cannot be denied.

Their different choices of continuo instruments-Kuijken opts for Marais's preference for a second viol and harpsichord while Savall chooses the equally stylish alternatives of theorbo or theorbo and harpsichord - contribute to the impression of seriousness on the one hand and a certain frivolity on the other. The rather transparent timbre provided by the theorbo…is extremely effective in movements such as the Sarabande, where delicacy of expression is wanted or where a dramatic touch - as in The Operation - is needed , yet unable to support the gravitas of a movement such as the tombeau; in Kuijken's performance of that work, the second viol lends its sustaining power to create a larger-than-life impression of the solo viol and yet the harsh clatter of the harpsichord (perhaps rather closely recorded) ultimately hinders what is really a supreme performance; elsewhere the heaviness of the continuo ensemble emphasizes the slower tempos he favours, occasionally to the detriment of the Affekt of the piece.


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