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Roland Marais (c.1680-c.1750)
Eight Preludes from Premier (1735), Deuxieme(1738) Livre de Pieces de Viole

Transcribed for harpsichord by Don Simons

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ii+8 pp.


Roland Marais (c.1680-c.1750) was the best-known son of his famous father Marin Marais. He published his Premier Livre de Pieces de Viole in 1735 and the Deuxieme Livre in 1738. In contrast to his father's gamba suites, which appear only in part-books, Roland's are in the form of two-line scores, with the gamba line above and figured bass below. Each book has four suites numbered from one to four, and each suite begins with a short prelude. This volume presents transcriptions for harpsichord of the eight preludes. They have been renumbered consecutively, so numbers 5-8 here correspond to the preludes from suites 1-4 of the second book.

The transcriptions preserve as much as practical from the original, including the gamba and bass lines at the original pitch. Harmonies have been filled in following the style of D'Anglebert's transcriptions from a almost half century earlier. Since gamba ornament notation is unfamiliar to most harpsichordists, D'Anglebert's symbols have been used instead. They are reviewed in ornament table in the printed edition. Most ornaments that have equivalents on harpsichord have been retained. However, the numerous instances of a double appogiatura leading upward to the main note have routinely been replaced---or should I say augmented---with D'Anglebert's coule sur une tierce, since the harpsichord can easily sustain the lowest note while playing the next two. A few ornaments have also been added where it seemed appropriate.

Marais notated serpentine, scalewise flourishes either as graces or ordinary notes with shortened time values, the shortening not always metrically precise. These bear some resemblance to similar sequences in F. Couperin's preludes, although the latter more often move in only one direction and contain fewer notes on average. Since in both cases the sequences usually precede a main beat, I believe they should be interpreted similarly. Therefore the timings have not been "corrected" (as was done in a well-known but misguided edition of Couperin's preludes from several decades back). Rather, it is suggested that the performer simply delay these figurations until the last possible instant and then play them very rapidly, without regard to any literal reading of the note values.

The original slurs have all been retained. Such slurs are rarely found in harpsichord music; a gambist would interpret them as bowings. However, they should be useful in making phrasing decisions.

Don Simons
Redondo Beach, June 2002

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