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Marin Marais’s music apparently still has a few more secrets tucked away up its sleeve… Proof of this is to be found in the Panmure manuscript, which is conserved in Edinburgh and contains forty-five pieces for viola da gamba which are not to be found anywhere else. Noémie Lenhof has chosen to highlight them on her first album as a soloist. Thanks to some major reconstruction work, a number of unpublished couplets from the Folies d’Espagne, a grande chaconne and a whole suite of dances are brought back to life by the young gambist’s bow.
"Acquired during a trip to France by James and Harie Maule, the Earl of Panmure’s sons, these pieces do not appear in any of the books by Marin Marais that were published - thus, their significance is considerable. They are also of major interest because most of them were either written or copied by Marin Marais himself, which means that the so-called “Panmure” manuscript is the only one we currently know to be in the composer’s own hand.
The viol pieces in the Panmure manuscript do not include any basso continuo parts. When the Maule brothers set off on their journey back home to Scotland they clearly did not take any parts of this kind - which Marais always wrote separately - with them, so it seems reasonable to suppose either that they have been lost or that the composer never wrote any. All the same, it is hard to believe that Marais would have come up with these pieces without meaning to add a basso continuo part later on.
This is why Guillaume Haldenwang, the harpsichordist on this recording, worked incredibly hard on reconstructing the bass parts for all the pieces in D minor that I had selected from the Panmure manuscript, and also for the grande chaconne in G major and for the Couplets de Folies taken from the manuscript and which do not appear in the version published in 1701 (Second Livre de Pièces de Viole). This reconstruction work is based entirely on our knowledge of the very many other pieces that Marais wrote that do have basso continuo parts.
The rewriting of the bass parts of these unpublished pieces by Marais allowed Guillaume and me to win the F.J. Aumann Prize at the International Biber Competition in 2019 (Austria). This award recognizes new discoveries in early music and the most innovative interpretations of it every two years. Our reconstruction was particularly appreciated by Xavier Vandamme, the then-president of the jury, who invited us to perform at the Oude Muziek Festival in Utrecht in 2022. All these elements motivated us to continue and develop our project, and ultimately, to record an album."