Marin Marais

The composer and viola da gamba virtuoso Marin Marais (1656-1728) achieved an unusual rise that took the son of a Parisian cobbler to Versailles at the court of Louis XIV. At the age of eleven, Marais became a choirboy at a large Parisian church, where he received a comprehensive and thorough musical education. Dismissed from the choir after his voice broke, he concentrated on playing the viola da gamba from 1672, and after a few years was accepted as a gambist in the orchestra of the Paris Operá led by Jean-Baptiste Lully. Lully encouraged the young musician to the best of his ability and gave Marais composition and conducting lessons. Subsequently, Marin developed into the most important gambist of his time, opening up new playing techniques and new regions of sound and expression for the instrument, giving concerts and becoming Gambiste de la chambre du Roi. In Marais’s compositional work, music for the viola da gamba with dance movements and various, often eminently imaginative free forms forms the main focus. From 1693, another branch of his work was the tragédie lyrique, the French form of opera typical of the time.

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