Music from the film Tous les matins du monde
Jordi Savall & Le Concert des Nations
St John’s, Smith Square, 19 October 2017
As part of the Southbank Centre’s International Chamber Music Series (currently taking place in St John’s, Smith Square while the Queen Elizabeth Hall is being refurbished), Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations presented a sell-out concert of music from the 1991 film Tous les matins du monde. Savall’s pre-concert chat with Radio 3’s Sara Mohr-Pietsch revealed some of the differences between the film’s portrayal and the actual life of Sainte-Colombe and Marais, but confirmed that Marais did crawl beneath Sainte-Colombe’s garden shed to listen to him practicing, that Sainte-Colombe developed a new style of fingering, and added a 7th string to the viol. He also explained how they achieved the voices of the two young girls singing in the film, by speeding up two adult female singers.
Appearing with four members of Les Concert des Nations, Savall opening with a very pared-down version of the March pour la cérémonie des Turcs from Lully’s Le bourgeois gentilhomme, depicted in the film with Marais directing a large band of players in Versailles, beating time by banging his staff on the ground – the same process that eventually killed Lully when he stabbed his foot and got gangrene. The mood of much of the music was far more upbeat that the music in the film, which was largely melancholic and reflective.
Of course, the film is far more than a reflection of the life of Marais or his teacher Saint-Colombe. The themes are as much about obsession, depression, anger, loss, grief, and solitude – as well as (it being French) some rather clunky erotic textural moments and scenes around the coming of age of Saint-Colombe’s two young daughters. Savall’s concert programme also veered well away from the music of the film, not least in Eustache du Caurroy’s three Fantasies on the chanson Une jeune fillette, reflecting the daughters in question. From Saint-Colombe we heard Le retour and the Tombeau les regrets, both having prominent parts in the film. Marais was represented by selections from his 1701 and 1711 books, together with the Sonnerie de Sainte Genevìve du Mont-de-Paris, given a far better performance than in the opening of the film when the elderly Marais is despairing of some very amateur playing.
By far the most successful moments came when Jordi Savall was playing on his own, and not just because they reflected the mood of the film more accurately. The consort of four players was rather unbalanced when playing together, and the smaller scale groupings also were not entirely successful.