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M. de SAINTE COLOMBE (fl. latter 17th Century)
Pièces pour viole de gambe

Prelude [1:35]
Les Couplets [9:44]
Le Retrouvé [7:07]
Le Conférence [11:57]
Le Changé [9:19]
Tombeau Les Regrets [8:51]
Le Raporté [4:50]
Le Majestueux [4:32]
Le Précipite [2:50]
La Varié[3:10]
L’Infidelle [5:41]
Hille Perl, viola da gamba
Le Santana, viola da gamba
Andrew Lawence-King, harps
Lorenz Duftschmidt, lutes
Recorded 23-26 March 1996, St. Andrew’s Church, Toddington [DDD]
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 74321 935562 [68:38]

A few years ago, when Jordi Savall’s Hesperion was still only XX, I stumbled across a magnificent recording of that fine group playing viol consort music by the Englishman John Jenkins. Instantly I was in love with the sweet, enchanting sound of these predecessors to the modern string family. Shortly thereafter, the film, "Tous les Matins du Monde" would go on to be an international hit, and the Savall’s outstanding soundtrack recording would bring the viola da gamba out of historical obscurity and into a twentieth century light of day.

Up for grabs here is a reissue of Hille Perl and friends playing some lovely arrangements, reconstructions and original versions of music by the enigmatic M. Sainte Colombe, famous in his day as the teacher of Marin Marais, now a character shrouded in the mists of obscurity by a gross lack of biographical information.

There is nothing about the performances here that is not to enjoy. Opening with a delightful transcription of a keyboard prelude by Couperin, and traveling on through a chaconne or two and some lovely dances, Ms. Perl and her companions bring some neglected music to splendid life. She and her collaborators have made some judicious editorial decisions, adding instruments from time to time to either augment the scores, or to replace missing parts in the manuscripts. All of these alterations are done with such skill and taste as to be completely unnoticeable to anyone except the most well read expert in this repertoire.

Ms. Perl plays with a rich warm tone and accomplishes a good deal of rhythmic interest on an instrument whose deep sonorous voice, when coupled with the rather mellow speed of attack allowed by the bow can result in rather monochromatic listening when in the wrong hands. The addition of the harp in particular lends interest and vitality to what is otherwise very sweet and dreamy music.

The good folk at BMG should be flogged for the sloppy packaging. Mistakes abound from a track timing listed at six minutes and sixty-seven seconds (huh?) to the misspelling on the slipcover of lutenist Lorenz Duftschmidt’s name. Program notes, complete with a quote from the late Jerry Garcia (of Grateful Dead fame), are a bit trendy and unscholarly for my particular taste, but at least they are not dull or dry.

A nice evening’s listen all in all and a chance for some aural peace and tranquility for a change. Recommended.

Kevin Sutton


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