The 1991 French film Tous les matins du monde (All the Mornings of the World) attracted an audience of unexpected size for a story about French Baroque viol music, becoming a runaway hit in France and Germany and even gained wide distribution in the classical-chary U.S. The commercial ramifications grew with the release of the film's soundtrack, featuring early music giant Jordi Savall on viol; the soundtrack achieved platinum sales levels in its initial release. The film's story, built on a very few sketchy facts about the reclusive seventeenth century viol player known only as Monsieur de Sainte Colombe, drew viewers with its modern resonances touching on the conflict between art and popular success, and partly with its dramatic lighting reminiscent of the paintings of Louis le Nain. The soundtrack has a few pieces with vocals or with a small ensemble of other players.
The presentation of the soundtrack attempted to address listeners who hadn't seen the film, as well as offering more information to those who had; the liner notes contain a great deal of interesting material discussing the place of the French court and its cultural initiatives vis-à-vis the sensuality of Italian music on the one hand and the restrictions of hardcore religious reformers on the other. Does the music by Marais and Sainte Colombe included here actually illustrate these conflicts for the average listener, independently of the film? Perhaps not, although Savall does offer persuasive readings of Sainte Colombe's knotty, intellectual pieces with their oddly unresolved dissonances. And the notes don't tell you much about the music you're actually hearing. One other thing to consider is that those who are irritated by the sound of breathing noise in viol music will hear it in abundance on this recording. With all these caveats out of the way, however, the bottom line is that this is a fine recording of haunting solo music that has a unique hothouse atmosphere. Audiophile lovers of the film who have the original release may wish to invest in the SACD version, which captures every breath of Savall's and every little chirp made by the strings of the viol.