During the Marin Marais revival of the '80s and '90s, viola da gamba players of many nationalities tried their hand at his magnificent music. The French brought out Marais' elegance and sensuality. The Spaniards brought out his soul and sadness. The Dutch brought out his wit and tenderness. The English brought out his humor and his metaphysics. Now in this 1997 recording of excerpts from Marais' Pièces de viole Book II, the Finn Markku Luolajan-Mikkola brings out Marais' lucid gloom and luminous despair. This is not to say that Luolajan-Mikkola is not a superb player. Like so many second-generation gamba players, Luolajan-Mikkola's technique is irreproachable and his tone is incomparable and the depth and dexterity of his playing are a match for the best musicians ever to take up the gamba. But this is to say that Luolajan-Mikkola finds the heart of melancholy in Marais' music. His Couplets de foilies is as brilliantly played as any ever recorded but it is far, far more permeated by sadness. His Tombeau pour monsieur de Sainte Colombe is as beautifully balanced as any ever recorded but it is far, far more filled with unassuageable grief. This is not to say that Luolajan-Mikkola does not bring out the elegance and the soul and the tenderness and the humor of Marais' music, but it certainly is to say that, of all the nationalities that have tried their hand at his magnificent music, the Finns are by far the darkest and, perhaps, by far the truest. BIS' sound is virtually real.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard