Marin Marais (1656 – 1728) 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. In 1676 he was hired as a musician to the royal
court of Versailles and was moderately successful
there, being appointed in 1679 as ordinaire de la
chambre du roy pour la viole, a title he kept until
1725. 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
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.
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
Marais is credited with being one of the earliest
composers of program music. His work The 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." The title has
often been interpreted as "The Gall-Bladder Operation,"
but that surgery was not performed until the late 19th
century. Urinary bladder surgery to remove stones was
already a medical specialty in Paris in the 17th
Sonnerie de Sainte-Geneviève du Mont de Paris, "The
Bells of St. Genevieve" in English, was written by
Marais in 1723 for viol, violin and harpsichord with
basso continuo. It can be considered a passacaglia or a
chaconne, with a repeating D, F, E bass line. It is
perhaps Marais' most famous composition that explores
the various techniques of the viol, an instrument he
studied as a student of Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe.
The work begins with 4 measures of the bass line played
by the continuo and viol, then, on the 5th measure the
violin takes over the melody. Throughout the piece, the
violin and viol take turns with the melody. The piece
also exists in a version for solo double bass, having
been arranged by Norman Ludwin for Ludwin Music. An
electronic version on a Fairlight synthesizer was used
in the soundtrack of the 1982 film "Liquid Sky".
Although originally composed for Viol & Harpsichord, I
created this Interpretation of the "Sonnerie de Sainte
Genevieve du Mont de Paris" (The Bells of St.
Genevieve) for Piano.