Only two pieces on this enthralling album are genuinely “baroque”, but the Marais Project’s central instrument, Jennifer Eriksson’s viola da gamba, is a machine for imbuing all it touches with that stately grace of the music of 300 years ago. Sumptuously recorded, its bass notes are as sonorous as the voice of a great baritone; the high ones diaphanous. The baroque component consists of Erkisson’s arrangement of Marais’ desolately sad Tombeau pour Marias le Cadet and a suite by Marais’s pupil Louis de Caix d’Hervelois that defines elegance.
Tommie Andersson (theorbo, guitar) has arranged a plangent tune by the Swedish folk fiddler Hjort Anders Olsson, featuring Mikaela Oberg’s baroque flute. Paul Cutlan’s quixotic title track is a suite for viola da gamba and harpsichord (Raymond Harvey) that improbably manages to carry echoes of Bach while also being overtly modernist in the two instruments’ capricious interaction. Finally Lew and Mara Kiek playfully fuse the English folk tune The Cheshire Rounds with a Bulgarian 11/8 rhythm as a prelude to the bush ballad The Streets of Forbes (sung by tenor Koen van Stade), proving that Eriksson’s instrument can glide through space as well as time.