This set of pieces from the five books of Marais is in some ways never likely to be surpassed; it stands as a testament to the extraordinary insight and unique interpretative skills of the world's best known gamba player: Jordi Savall.
Savall built on the learning of his mentor, August Wenzinger, and has been largely responsible for the recent revival of the viola da gamba. Tous Les Matins du Monde - in which Savall's performances were featured - brought this largely forgotten music to the attention of a wider audience, and since then Savall has come to be regarded as the leading proponent in this genre.
The Marais set is not complete; if it were it would run to many more discs, but here we have a selection from each of the five books, originally issued by Astree between 1975 and 1983. The recordings are reissued here on Savall's own label, Alia Vox, and the sound is if anything even better.
Together with Christophe Coin, Anne Gallet, Hopkinson Smith and Ton Koopman, Savall produced here what are surely the definitive performances of these works. We've had many fine recordings since from the likes of Ghielmi, Pierlot and Coin himself, but none has really come close to the aura of absolute authenticity, veracity and sensitivity which we find here. Take La Reveuse from Book IV; Savall finds extraordinary depth and intensity, yet at times his bow is barely more than a feather of breath on the strings; the reverie evoked is all the more overwhelming for being so understated.
In short this is a cornerstone of the recorded music of the French Baroque, but one which has a place in any music lover's collection.