Above: Paul Cutlan, composer of the recording’s title track, Spinning Forth. Featured image : Jenny Eriksson, viola da gambist and founder of The Marais Project
‘Spinning Forth’ (Move Records, MCD564) is the latest recording from The Marais Project. Founder of this project, Jenny Eriksson, has once again guaranteed that as well as providing a beautiful listening experience this is a CD which is rich in contrast.
It contains successful and striking juxtapositions of style, mood,
instrumentation, and blends different compositional homelands or time periods. From the project that is working its way through the oeuvre of gambist Marin Marais, we are here treated to new Australian music, able to access Swedish music and hear the viola da gamba explore music from colonial Australia in arrangement for early music instruments.
The work by Marais featured on this CD is a stunningly solemn arrangement for the penultimate track. Jennifer Eriksson’s nicely balanced arrangement for two viols da gamba and theorbo of the Tombeau pour Marais le Cadet (from Pièces de violes, Book V, 1725). In the renamed Tombeau for John Dowland, first performed at a concert in 2013 for the 450th anniversary of Dowlands birth, Eriksson is ably joined by Catherine Upex on the second viola da gamba and Tommie Andersson on theorbo. The arrangement gives a full and even sound, celebrating the expressive skills of both Marais and the group of Sydney-based early musicians.
The CD opens with another direct link to Marin Marais. The Suite in D minor (from Pièces de viole, Premier livre) is work by Marais’ pupil Louis de Caix d’Hervelois. At the opening of this recording, French elegance, melodic intricacies and character for each of the seven movements are clearly presented by the two gambists and theorbist. There is much lyricism and considerable fluidity of gesture to admire from the players,
Continuing The Marais Project’s successful inclusion of Swedish music in recordings, as on its previous CD, ‘Smörgåsbord!’, ‘Spinning Forth’ includes a fine arrangement of Swedish music. The contemplative walking tune Min levnads afton by Hjort Anders Olsson is refreshed especially for this CD.
The tune has been arranged by Tommie Andersson for baroque violin (Matthew Bruce), baroque flute (Mikaela Oberg), viola da gamba (Eriksson ) and theorbo (Andersson). This piece’s diversity of ensemble blends brilliantly and a calm and controlled tranquility results and envelops the listener.
Following this track, ingenuity and an Australian work in premiere come in the form of the recording’s title work, Spinning Forth, by Paul Cutlan. This four-movement work is a bold and effective response to a commission from The Marais Project.
Cutlan’s manipulation of the Baroque texture of ‘fortspinnung’, or the connectivity of successive phrases, is well in evidence, especially in the perpetual motion of the first movement. The mix of harpsichord (Raymond Harvey) and viola da gamba (Jennifer Eriksson) for this new music is an interesting display of modern effects and managing the stark landscape of Cutlan’s modern minimalism. This work has several spellbinding moments to listen to.
The final element completing this diverse CD is also a commission by The Marais Project. Mara and Liew Kiek, from the world and folk music band Mara! have created a work with its origins in colonial Australia, and creates music to be played by the entire early music ensemble featured on this recording, minus the harpsichord.
This work, The Streets of Forbes also contains a contrast within its structure as well as to the remainder of the CD. Following the arrangement of the sombre tombeau music by Marais, the setting of the rigorous dance music Cheshire Rounds hurtles us headlong into the early nineteenth century and the era’s popular folk dance music with complex rhythmic structure and uplifting verve. This is a great celebration of Australia’s colonial past from all instruments.
The second section of this work introduces the steady vocal tone and excellent diction of tenor Koen van Stade. The setting to early-instrument accompaniment of an intense ballad lamenting the demise of bushranger Ben Hall has close lines and colourful doublings of the voice by the instruments.\=
The setting is nicely balanced and well rendered, with the storytelling a strong priority. The atmosphere of a narrative from our colonial heritage is in the good hands of these composers and instrumentalists. It is nice to have local fare, Australian raw ingredients and a group of Australian-based musicians charm us at the end of the CD.
‘Spinning Forth’ continues The Marais Project’s progressive treatment of the viola da gamba in recording, taking it well and truly out of the context of the works of Marin Marais. With eclectic programming and a variety of ensemble shifts, this new CD has something for everyone. Now available on iTunes or through the Marais Project website, www.maraisproject.com.au, it is an engaging listening event with strong musicological merit.