The unusual program takes us into the extravagant Stylus Fantasticus, defined by Athanasius Kircher in the 1650 as “the freest and most unrestrained method of composing, especially suited to instruments. It is bound to nothing, neither to any words nor to a melodic subject, it was instituted to display genius and to teach the hidden design of harmony and the ingenious composition of harmonic phrases and fugues."
PHOENIX brings us again a premiere, this time of Marin Marais’s glorious La Gamme of 1723, an adventurous journey of modulations brought about by an apparently innocent C major scale. In the program other virtuosic works by Giovanni Antoni Pandolfi Mealli, Marin Marais, Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Muffat.
Lilia Slavni baroque violin
Marina Minkin harpsichord
Myrna Herzog viola da gamba
La Gamme En forme de petit Opera (1723) is a work from the maturity of notable viol player and composer Marin Marais (1656-1728).
Written as a trio for violin, viola da gamba, and harpsichord, this ground-breaking piece allocates virtuosic parts to each instrument. Marais writes a preface in French and Italian, where he gives several instructions and explanations, stating that "l'ouvrage que J'ay l'honneur de presenter au public m'interesse trop pour ne pas contribuer autant qu'il est possible a la veritable maniere de l'Executer (the work I have the honor to present to the public interests me too much not to contribute as much as possible to the true way of performing it)".
As James Johnstone points out, "the 45 sections of over half an hour of musical thought, in the key sequence C, d, e, F, g/G, a, b, C/c/C, b, a/A, G/g, F, E, d/D, C, contain a myriad of changing characters, metre and tempi as well as instrumental textures. Dances and forms explored include an allemande, gigues, chaconnes, fugues, and rondeaux. The viola da gamba is by turns an obligato virtuoso – witness the extended F Major chaconne during the ascent – and a reinforcer of the continuo bass line. Transitions, often merely a single bar in length, ease us from one ‘holding pattern’ tonality to the next position, or foothold, on this musical colossus".