Album Review: The Garden Party/ The Marais Project


The Garden Party,

The Marais Project/ Move Records

Celebrating two decades of professional music making, The Marais Project has released a new recording, The Garden Party on the Move label, featuring fresh repertoire and new collaborators alongside some previously recorded pieces with older friends.

The Marais Project was founded by viola da gamba player Jennifer Eriksson, underpinned by the instruments and repertoire of Marin Marias (1656 – 1728), the outstanding virtuoso French composer and viola da gamba player. As well as championing the repertoire of Marais, Eriksson and her protean ensemble, comprising singers and other instrumentalists, have performed and recorded a rich treasury of music by Marias’ contemporaries. While maintaining a healthy respect for historical performance, the ensemble has also kept old forms alive with newer arrangements played on younger instruments giving them a contemporary perspective, as well as creating completely new works bringing the centuries old viola da gamba into present times.

Eriksson’s collaborators on this project include the cream of Australia’s early music performers,  Belinda Montgomery (soprano), Catherine Upex (viola da gamba) and Tommie Andersson (theorbo and baroque guitar) with Susie Bishop (violin and voice), Pascal Herrington (tenor), Fiona Ziegler (baroque violin), Melissa Farrow (baroque flute), Emily-Rose Šárkova (piano accordion and arranger), Danny Yeadon (viola da gamba), Chris Berensen (harpsichord) and Elsen Price (double-bass).

The Garden Party is a winning collection of 9 pieces with 19 tracks amounting to just under an hour of music. The mood is sometimes gentle, sometimes brimming with the jollity of the masque and sometimes full of medieval melancholy, with touches of jazz, swing and Latino idioms. It includes two world premiere recordings, The Garden Party (Eriksson) and the Suite in E minor, Pièces de viole, 4è livre by Marin Marais, arranged by Šárkova.

The opening piece is The Garden Party, a composition by Eriksson herself, after which the album is named, inspired by the Feste Champetrê from Marais’ Suitte d’un Goût Étranger. Although in a minor key, the ensemble gives the piece an upbeat, dance-like charm, played by the combination of violin, viola da gamba, piano accordion, baroque guitar and double bass. The longest piece on the recording, this multi-movement work is rich with motifs from jazz, oriental modes and imitation. The constantly varying texture is created by the instruments in turn, taking solo passages, accompaniments and connecting phrases.

Marin Marias’ inspiration continues with three other works on the album. The Suite in E minor Pièces de viole, 4 è livre is arranged by Emily-Rose Šárkova for viola da gamba and piano accordion in a simple but effective combination. The second movement of the Suite is especially interesting as the piano accordion takes on the melody and therefore the baroque ornamentation, sounding not unlike a baroque portative organ. The accordion then retires to the continuo role as Eriksson’s viola da gamba takes the theme and embellishments.

Marais’ Suite no 2 in G minor, Pièces en Trio is from a previous recording Smörgåsbord! This trio sonata features a beautifully blended quartet of flute, violin, theorbo and viola da gamba with the violin and flute playing the themes against the foil of the theorbo and gamba. Virtuoso ornamentation and singing phrases make this a delightful choice.

Marais’ third contribution is the Suite in G minor Pièces de viole, 5 è livre which sparkles with a deft performance from Eriksson as soloist with a second gamba playing continuo, theorbo and harpsichord.

Paying homage to her Scandinavian heritage, Eriksson recruits her compatriot, theorbo player Tommie Andersson in a reprise from the album Smörgåsbord! of the Swedish folk song Om sommaren sköna, whose lyrics date from the 17th century and tune from the 18th century. Tenor Pascal Herrington and the ensemble comprising flute, violin, theorbo and gamba give a mesmerising account of this tranquil ballad.

No garden party is complete without songbirds. We are treated to the impeccably pure sounds of sopranos Belinda Montgomery and Susie Bishop on three tracks. Belinda Montgomery performing Pierre Bouteiller’s motet O salutaris hostia with two gambas and theorbo, is a worthy reprise from the Love Reconciled album. Her voice soars with lightness and clarity, agile in ornamentation; Susie Bishop’s slightly more mellow sound is a beautiful complement in the newly released and very decorated J’avois crü performed with gamba and theorbo. She also provides the more folkloric vocals to the two closing tracks, Ariel Ramirez’s (of Missa Criolla fame) La Anunciacion and De Fiesta en Fiesta by Carlos Carabajal, the 20th century Argentinian folk singer and composer. These two, are in Eriksson’s words, the ‘fun’ part of the recording. They combine Argentinian folk aesthetics with classical style and instrumentation and are a joyful conclusion to an intensely pleasurable collection of music.

Perhaps their best recording yet. Ravishing!

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©

The Marais Project launches The Garden Party at a concert on 26 May. 




Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *