Marin Marais

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Marin Marais by André Bouys, 1704.

Marin Marais (French: [maʁɛ̃ maʁɛ]; 31 May 1656, Paris – 15 August 1728, Paris) was a French composer and viol player. He studied composition with Jean-Baptiste Lully, often conducting his operas, and with master of the bass viol Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe for six months. He was hired as a musician in 1676 to the royal court of Versailles. He did quite well as court musician, and in 1679 was appointed ordinaire de la chambre du roy pour la viole, a title he kept until 1725.

He was the father of the composer Roland Marais (c. 1685 – c. 1750).


Marin Marais was a master of the viol, and the leading French composer of music for the instrument. He wrote five books of Pièces de viole (1686–1725) for the instrument, generally suites with basso continuo. These were quite popular in the court, and for these he was remembered in later years as he who "founded and firmly established the empire of the viol" (Hubert Le Blanc, 1740). His other works include a book of Pièces en trio (1692) and four operas (1693–1709), Alcyone (1706) being noted for its tempest scene.

Titon du Tillet included Marais in Le Parnasse françois, making the following comments on two of his pieces, Le Labyrinthe, perhaps inspired by the labyrinth of Versailles,[1] and La Gamme:

A piece from his fourth book entitled The Labyrinth, which passes through various keys, strikes various dissonances and notes the uncertainty of a man caught in a labyrinth through serious and then quick passages; he comes out of it happily and finishes with a gracious and natural chaconne. But he surprised musical connoisseurs even more successfully with his pieces called La Gamme [The Scale], which is a piece de symphonie that imperceptibly ascends the steps of the octave; one then descends, thereby going through harmonious songs and melodious tones, the various sounds of music.

As with Sainte-Colombe, little of Marin Marais' personal life is known after he reached adulthood. Marin Marais married a Parisian, Catherine d'Amicourt, on 21 September 1676. They had 19 children together.

Facsimiles of all five books of Marais' Pièces de viole are published by Éditions J.M. Fuzeau. A complete critical edition of his instrumental works in seven volumes, edited by John Hsu, is published by Broude Brothers.

Marais is credited with being one of the earliest composers of program music.[2] His work The[3] Bladder-Stone Operation, for viola da gamba and harpsichord, includes composer's annotations such as "The patient is bound with silken cords" and "He screameth."[2] The title has often been interpreted as "The Gall-Bladder Operation," but that surgery was not performed until the late 19th century.[4] Urinary bladder surgery to remove stones was already a medical specialty in Paris in the 17th century.[5][6]


Instrumental music

Viol part of Premiers couplets (sic) des Folies d'Espagne from the Marin Marais' deuxième livre de pièces de viole for viola da gamba and figured bass
  • Pieces for 1 and 2 viols, Book I (20 August 1686, only solo viols, 1 March 1689 first published with associated basso continuo)
  • Pieces en trio pour les flutes, violon, et dessus de viole (published on 20 December 1692, dedicated to Marie-Anne Roland)
  • Pieces for 1 and 2 viols, Book II (1701), including 32 couplets on "Les folies d'Espagne"
  • Pièces de violes, Book III (1711)
  • Pieces for 1 and 3 viols, Book IV (1717; includes the famous Suitte d'un Goût Étranger.)
  • La gamme et autres morceaux de symphonie (1723, includes La Gamme en forme d'un petit Opéra, Sonate à la Maresienne, Sonnerie de Ste-Geneviève du Mont-de-Paris)
  • Pièces de violes, Book V (1725)
  • 145 Pieces for viol (ca. 1680), about 100 pieces were published in Books I – III


  • Idylle dramatique of 1686 (music lost)
  • Alcide (1693, in collaboration with Louis Lully)
  • Ariane et Bacchus (1696)
  • Alcyone (premiered on 18 February 1706)
  • Sémélé (1709)
  • Pantomime des pages (with Louis Lully, music lost)

Sacred works

  • Te Deum (1701) for the recovery of the Dauphin (lost)
  • Motet Domine salvum fac regem (1701) for the recovery of the Dauphin (lost)


  • Marin Marais, Sonnerie de Ste-Genevieve du Mont, Suite en Do majeur (C major), Suite en Re majeur (D major); performers: N. Harnoncourt, A. Harnoncourt, L. Stastny, H. Tachezi; recording label: Harmonia Mundi, France, no. HMC 90414; 1973, 1987.
  • Marin Marais, Les Folies d'Espagne, La reveuse, L'arabesque, Le badinage, Sonnerie de Ste-Genevieve du Mont; performers: Jordi Savall (Bass viola da gamba), Pierre Hantaï (Harpsichord), Rolf Lislevand (Theorbo); recording label: Alia Vox, 9821; 2002.
  • Marin Marais : Pièces de viole du Second Livre, 1701 (Le Parnasse de la Viole, vol. II) – Jordi Savall et al. – Alia Vox AV 9828
  • Marin Marais : Suitte d'un Goût Étranger, Pièces de viole du Livre IV, 1717 (Le Parnasse de la Viole, vol. III) – Jordi Savall et al. – Alia Vox AVSA 9851
  • Marin Marais ~ Pièces de viole des Cinq Livres ~ J.Savall, C. Coin, T. Koopman, H. Smith, A. Gallet ~ Alia Vox AVSA 9872

References in film


  1. "track listing for Marais' Le Labyrinthe".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Henri Temianka (1973). Facing the music; an irreverent close-up of the real concert world. New York: David McKay Co. p. 82. OCLC 243915303.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Evers S.(1993). "[Tableau de l'opération de la taille by Marin Marais (1725)—a bladder calculus operation represented in music]" (in German). Urologe A 32 (3): 254–9. PMID 8511837.
  4. [G. Grey Turner], "History of Gall-Bladder Surgery," British Medical Journal, 4 March 1939, pp. 464–65.
  5. Traité de la lithotomie, ou de l'extraction de la pierre hors la vessie. Avec les figures.Par François Tolet... .... Author: François Tolet; Léon-Auguste? Boyer Publisher: A Paris : Chez l'autheur, 1682.'_de_la_lithotomie_ou_De_l'extraction_de_la_pierre_hors_de_la_vessie
  6. François Tolet, "Lithotomy, or a treatise of the extraction of the stone out of the bladder . . . , [London], Will. Whitwood, 1689. [Google ebooks]

External links