French musician and composer Marin Marais (1656-1728) served at the Sun King’s Versailles court, composing as many as six operas – and fathering 19 children. Another point of interest, he was one of the earliest composers of program music; his The Bladder-Stone Operation includes detailed descriptions of the surgery. Marais was, however, best known for his supreme skill in capturing the rich, deep, silky and nuanced voice of the viola da gamba. He poured all his skill and passion into his vast five-volume lifework Pièces de viole (1686–1725).
Together with harpsichordist and conductor Eric Milnes, Marin Marais: Badinages features Québecoise viola da gamba virtuosa Mélisande Corriveau. Gramophone magazine hailed her as leading “a new generation of players bringing formidable performing skills and knowledge of period practices.”
Badinages is devoted to 20 excerpts from Marais’ remarkable bass viol repertoire of some 500 works. He toyed with convention in some, presenting a series of character pieces rather than the dance forms then favoured.
These suites demand a high degree of virtuoso technique, application of appropriate period performance practice, and taste. Corriveau is fully up to the challenge. She renders the numerous period ornaments with finesse, the sound-swelling enflés and one- and two-finger vibratos among them, conveying a stylish, sensuously delicate musical affect.
Adventurous both melodically and harmonically, Marais’ music marks a high water mark of the French Baroque. And to our contemporary ears, Corriveau and Milnes’ evocative performance on this album firmly sites this music in that very particular time and place.