Marin Marais: Chaconne for Solo Viola da Gamba – John Dornenburg


“Pieces a une et a deux violes” Book I – Chaconne

Performed by John Dornenburg, viola da gamba

*Marin Marais was a French composer and viol player. He studied composition with Jean-Baptiste Lully, often conducting his operas, and with master of the bass viol Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe for 6 months. He was hired as a musician in 1676 to the royal court of Versailles. He did quite well as court musician, and in 1679 was appointed “ordinaire de la chambre du roy pour la viole”, a title he kept until 1725.

He was a master of the basse de viol, and the leading French composer of music for the instrument. He wrote five books of Pièces de viole (1686-1725) for the instrument, generally suites with basso continuo. These were quite popular in the court, and for these he was remembered in later years as he who “founded and firmly established the empire of the viol” (Hubert Le Blanc, 1740). His other works include a book of Pièces en trio (1692) and four operas (1693-1709), Alcyone (1706) being noted for its tempest scene.

As with Sainte-Colombe, little of Marin Marais’ personal life is known after he reached adulthood. Marin Marais married a Parisian, Catherine d’Amicourt, on 21 September 1676. They had 19 children together.

Marais and his music were featured in the film Tous les matins du monde (1991), an atmospheric, meticulously imagined life of Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe. Marais’ music figured prominently in that film, including his longer work Sonnerie de Ste-Geneviève du Mont-de-Paris (1723). A recording of the Sonnerie performed on a Fairlight synthesizer was used in the cult classic film Liquid Sky.

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