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Marais, Marin

Marais, Marin

Marais, Marin, great French viola da gambist and composer; b. Paris, May 31,1656; d. there, Aug. 15,1728. He studied bass viol with Sainte-Colombe and composition with Lully. He became a member of the royal orch. (1676); was made Ordinaire de la chambre du Roi (1679), a position he retained until his retirement (1725). Marais possessed matchless skill as a virtuoso on the viola da gamba, and set a new standard of excellence by enhancing the sonority of the instrument. He also established a new method of fingering, which had a decisive influence on the technique of performance. As a composer, he was an outstanding master of bass viol music, producing 5 extensive collections between 1686 and 1725, numbering some 550 works in all. In his dramatic music, he followed Lully’s French manner; his recitatives comport with the rhythm of French verse and the inflection of the rhyme. The purely instrumental parts in his operas were quite extensive; in Alcione (Paris, Feb. 18,1706) he introduced a “tempeste,” which is one of the earliest attempts at stage realism in operatic music. His other operas are Alcide (Paris, 1693), Ariane et Bacchus (Paris, 1696), and Sémélé (Paris, 1709). He also publ, trios for violin, flute, and viola da gamba (1692) and a book of trios for violin, viol, and harpsichord under the title La gamme et autres morceaux de simphonie (1723). An edition of his instrumental works was ed. by J. Hsu (2 vols., N.Y., 1980,1987). He was married in 1676 and had 19 children; his son Roland Marais was also a talented viola da gambist who publ. 2 books of pieces for his instrument with basso continuo (Paris, 1735, 1738) and a Nouvelle méthode de musique pour servir d’introduction aux acteurs modernes (Paris, 1711; not extant). His son-in-law was Nicolas Bernier .


C. Thompson, M. M., 1656–1728 (diss., Univ. of Mich., 1956); M. Urquhart, Style and Technique in the “Pieces de violes” of M. M.(diss., Univ. of Edinburgh, 1970); B. McDowell, M. and Forqueray: A Historical and Analytical Study of Their Music for Solo Basse de Viole (diss., Columbia Univ., 1974); D. Teplow, Performance Practice and Technique in M. M’s “Pieces de viole” (Ann Arbor, 1986).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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