A Marais a day, Book II Sarabande la desolee 70

July 5, 2011

Another in a series of Marin Marais’ pieces de viole, with the idea of making some headway with the 500+ pieces spread across five books (not counting the Pieces de trio, La Gamme, Sonata a la Maresienne and sundry others). I leave professional players and very gifted amateurs to tackle the oft-recorded and best known (and most brilliant) of the pieces; by contrast, I toy instead with those that haven’t been recorded (to my knowledge) and those which are among the simplest technically. Just because they haven’t been recorded doesn’t mean they are worthless.  

This sarabande comes from a Suite in D in the middle of Book II. Beginners to Marais range around between minuets, preludes and sarabandes before tackling allemandes, courantes, other dances and character pieces. The title suggests great emotion, but it’s important to keep the tempo moving and become slow that the trajectory of the melody loses momentum. It’s inevitable in sarabandes that double stops and chords occur, but I’ve been careful to find a relatively simple sarabande that keeps these under control. Top B and C appear from time to time – the melody falls almost all entirely with the stave otherwise, from A (open second string)  to the top A of the top string. As to character, “desolee” was used again by Marais in the title of a passacaille from the Pieces en trio; this one retains a certain sweetness, a certain dignity-in-suffering, rather than anything too lugubrious, because it’s kept fairly tightly at all times within the major key.

Marais provides fingering. My music printing software isn’t up to Marais’ ornaments – I mean my little transcriptions to lead the Reader to consult original sources. Physically, I try to incorporate the ornaments as soon as possible after getting a grasp of the notes and bowing; they are integral to the ‘vocal’ quality of the melody, not some sort of “add on”. While this sarabande appears not to plumb any great emotions, the ornaments are the vehicle for any emotional interest and sensitivity on the part of the player. Given the lack of other technical demands, this is probably a very good exercise in bowing ornaments of the period to the proper degree of taste required.

I understand the fabulous Mieneke van der Velden may have recorded this in 2010 on her album, “Images”, devoted to Marin Marai’s ‘pieces de caractere’.


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