The graphics for this album, which include two really beautiful drawings of artichokes but no information about the music at all, tend to obscure the main attraction: the third piece included from the Suite in D minor for viols and continuo, published by Marin Marais in 1701, is the so-called "Couplets de Folies," a set of variations on the tune "La Follia." Nineteen minutes long in this performance, it may be the least-known of the monumental Baroque variation sets, and given its date it might have been a sort of French rejoinder to the variations on the same theme in Arcangelo Corelli's Violin Sonata Op. 5/12. Marais' 32 variations are purely French in quality, with the ornamentation subtly sneaking in around the corners of the melody rather than blazing forth and proclaiming itself, and even the rhythms of the song are made to conform to French dances. It is perilously difficult, and viol players Philippe Pierlot and Rainer Zipperling acquit themselves very well. Pierlot is a veteran of the ensembles of Jordi Savall, whose performances of Marais remain standard, and the small dances on this release reflect that heritage. But he adds enough to Savall's style -- in the big variation set tempos are tweaked and the final pages are really breathtaking -- to make the recording of interest to lovers of the French Baroque. And the artichokes, by Giovanna Garzoni (1600-1670), would make a nice centerpiece.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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