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Marin MARAIS (1656-1728)
Pièces de viole, Book 5; Suite in A minor (1725) [11:25]
Pièces de viole, Book 3; Suite in D major (1711) [19:05]
Pièces de viole, Book 4; Suite in A minor (1717) [9:09]
Antoine FORQUERAY (1672-1745)
Pieces de viole, Suite No. 1 in D Minor; La Couperin (arr viola da gamba, theorbo and harpsichord) (1747) [4:12]
Pieces de viole, Suite No. 2 in G Major; La Leclair (1747) [3:46]
Pieces de viole, Suite No. 2 in G Major; Chaconne. La Buisson (arr viola da gamba, theorbo and harpsichord) (1747) [5:13]
Julia Karpeta (viola da gamba)
Anton Birula (theorbo)
Krzysztof Karpeta (viola da gamba)
Maurycy Raczyński, Marta Niedźwiecka (harpsichord)
rec. 2018, Red Hall of the Witold Lutosławski National Forum of Music
CD ACCORD ACD259 [53:32]

The great viola da gamba virtuosos Marin Marias and Antoine Forqueray consolidated the advances in composition and technique made for the instrument by their predecessors, men such as Demanchy, Rousseau and Sainte-Colombe – the last named, indeed, taught Marais. Therefore, the juxtaposition of the two men is logical, as they were born sixteen years apart, and not by any means unique. For all that the selection favours the large-scale Marais suites, the three concise character pieces of Forqueray act more in the way of paragraphal points in the narrative of French string writing in the first half of the eighteenth-century.

In accordance with prevailing practice of the time the performers here have sifted three different Marais collections and selected their own instrumentation and continuo. Julia Karpeta is the viola da gamba soloist throughout. For both Marais’s Suites in A Minor she is joined by theorbo player Anton Birula. For the D major she’s accompanied by harpsichord Marta Niedźwiecka as well as, in six of the nine movements, her fellow gamba player, and husband, Krzysztof Karpeta. The other harpsichord player, Maurycy Raczyński, accompanies on two of the three Forqueray pieces.

This adds variety and historical precedent and it’s good to note, further, that the performers respond to the music’s nobility with eloquence of their own. That’s certainly true in the case of the suite from Marais’ Fifth Book of Pieces for Viols published in Paris in 1725 where the elegance of the Prelude and Sarabande as well as the rusticity of the La Mariée movement are finely projected and proportioned. The earlier Third Book owes much more, overtly, to Lully in its grace and is more essentially traditional. The balance between the instruments, whether single or two gambas is finely done, as is that between the gambas and harpsichord. Tempos are alert and never drag. The A minor suite from the Fourth Book sports a pair of very characterful Musettes, playful and terpsichorean and probably the suite’s highlight.

Each of the Forqueray pieces has a special sense of character; La Couperin is a kind of tombeau, with registral leaps and a movingly melancholic element to the fore. La Leclair cannily seems to encode a dancing quality that Leclair himself, a noted dancer, would have appreciated. Finally, Chaconne. La Buisson plays on the name – Buisson was the composer’s brother-in-law – and is a splendidly attractive piece of work, and ends the recital on a note of benevolent good spirits.

Authoritatively performed, finely recorded, and with Julia Karpeta to the fore phrasing with sensitivity, this is an engaging and enjoyable reflection on the French gamba tradition.

Jonathan Woolf

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