The Watcher asked,
Who Are Your Favorite Musical Artists Or Composers? Why?
Years ago I went to the Montgomery Cinema (Princeton-area’s artsy-farsty movie theater) by myself to see Tous les matins du monde, a biopic about French composer Marin Marais (1656-1728). It’s a beautiful movie about a tragic love story, with Gerard Depardieu playing the old Marais and Depardieu’s real-life son, Guillaume – who also met a tragic end – playing the young Marais.
I had always enjoyed Baroque music, but this scene, where Guillaume Depardieu plays the Folies d’Espagne on the viola de gamba, was a revelation:
I had to find more!
It was 1991, in the olden days before Google, so I sat through the credits and wrote down the musician’s name, Jordi Savall, after which I headed to the Princeton U-Store (which back then had an excellent music department, curated by a professor from the Westminster Conservatory) and bought the movie soundtrack.
After that, I have spent thousands of hours listening to Early and Baroque music, in person, on CDs, iPod and YouTube, at every opportunity.
The effect of viola de gamba music on me is like that of catnip on a cat. Apparently I am not alone, since Savall himself, when he was a young cellist in his teens, heard an old neighbor play it, and dedicated his life to the research, interpretation and teaching of the art.
His research has defined the art. When he first started learning gamba nearly nobody played it. He essentially taught himself while taking lessons on phrasing and other aspects of interpretation from master cellists. Until he could play an authentic, original gamba, he found someone who could build him one. He still spends countless hours at the French national archives researching original folios from the court of Louis XIII to add to the repertoire.
Savall’s work first was sponsored by a fellowship from the Fundación Juan March, but he has since created a family business. His late wife Monserrat Figueras sang, both his children play in his orchestra. He owns his recording label and is an impresario. Additionally, he is a professor of viola da gamba at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, when he succeeded his mentor, August Menzinger – his teacher in Switzerland when he and Ms Figueras moved to following the Juan March fellowship.
Savall narrates (in Spanish) his career in this video,
I started with the video of the Folies D’Espagne from the film. Here is a concert version of the piece, with Savall on gamba, and his daughter playing the harp,
You can listen to the full piece here,
No matter how many times I’ve listened to that piece, it always knocks my socks off.