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Briefly Noted: Queyras and Tharaud go for Baroque (CD of the Month)

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Marin Marais, Pièces de Viole, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Alexandre Tharaud

(released on January 27, 2023)
Harmonia Mundi HMM902315 | 62'24"
Alexandre Tharaud has not visited Washington since 2018, and cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras was last here in 2017. The two esteemed French musicians have continued their long and fruitful collaboration in a striking new Baroque album, with delightful transcriptions of Marin Marais’s pièces de viole, originally for viola da gamba and continuo, for the cello and piano. The performances, in the spirit of Baroque elaboration but taking full advantage of modern dynamic range and harmonic content, are delightful.

The two longest tracks are celebrated works in Marais's oeuvre. About a third of the disc is given to Couplets des Folies d'Espagne, from the composer's second book of Pièces de Viole, Marais's epic variation set on the widely known tune "La follia." This version of the piece shivers with rhythmic vitality, including some folksy Spanish twists, not least Tharaud's guitar-like repeated notes in one variation.

The second-longest piece on the disc, though only a quarter the size of the Folies d'Espagne, is La Rêveuse, included in Marais's Suite d’un goût étranger in his fourth book and used crucially in the splendid movie about Marais, Tous les Matins du Monde. From the same odd suite is the single track performed by Tharaud alone, an arrangement of the viol piece "Le badinage" somehow rendered on the Yamaha grand piano. Queyras also has one solo track, an arrangement of "Les Regrets," a charming piece sometimes attributed to Marais, given a soulful rendering on Queyras's 1696 Gioffredo Cappa cello.

Also not to be missed is the truly bizarre "Le Tableau de l'opération de la Taille," a piece that describes the horribly painful operation to remove a stone from the bladder. Actor Guillaume Gallienne reads the descriptions of this surgery, which Marais himself underwent without anesthesia in 1720. Unfortunately for those who do not speak French, there is no translation of this brutal text in the booklet, but the vivid demonstrations by the musicians give more than enough sense of their meaning.

1 comment:

littlejohnuk said...

Thanks for this - you've got me listening to a real find!