Why does baroque music sound so good on the marimba?
Maybe it's because, as a percussion instrument, the marimba clearly articulates the precise subdivision of the beat in baroque music. Or it may be due to the ability of a skilled marimbist to nail the fast notes, trills and ornaments intrinsic to the music of this era. Or is it simpy the sound of the marimba — an otherworldly amalgam of hand bell, pan flute and glass bottle — that brings the contrapuntal lines of baroque music into vivid relief?
Of course, it's all of these things and more that led us down the YouTube rabbit hole in search of ever more thrilling performances of baroque music on marimba.
Here are our 10 favourite discoveries.
1. François Couperin: 'Les barricades mystérieuses'
Quebec's Anne-Julie Caron plays this harpsichord gem with poise and rhythmic elasticity, and we love the resonance in her marimba's bass notes.
2. J.S. Bach: Prelude from Cello Suite No. 5
Jisu Jung set up her marimba in the awe-inspiring George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University to slay a movement from Bach's Cello Suite No. 5.
3. Domenico Scarlatti: Sonata in E Minor, K. 98
Theodor Milkov plays up the mysterious side of this triple-meter sonata by Scarlatti, and practically waltzes in the process.
4. Antonio Vivaldi: Summer from The Four Seasons, 3rd movement
Get ready for Miroslav Dimov's split-screen display of marimba madness in this multi-track arrangement of the presto movement from Vivaldi's Summer.
5. G.F. Handel: 'Arrival of the Queen of Sheba'
Two marimbas, four marimbists, eight mallots — clearly a winning formula for this popular Sinfonia from Handel's Solomon.
6. Jean-Philippe Rameau: 'Les Sauvages'
Adélaïde Ferrière was named instrumental soloist of the year at the 2017 Victoires de la Musique Classique in France, and this performance reveals why.
7. Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
Everyone loves Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, including marimbists. Here's the Balkan Percussion Duo's dramatic take on it.
8. Vivaldi: Winter from The Four Seasons, 1st movement
Glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone and marimba — the members of Marimba Mix throw everything into their arrangement of the first movement of Vivaldi's Winter concerto.
9. Bach: Goldberg Variations (excerpts)
Here are a few highlights from Katarzyna Myćka and Conrado Moya's performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Variation 14 (starting at 1:56 below) is nutso!
10. Bach: Allemande from Lute Suite in E Minor
Marimbists are drawn to Bach's Lute Suite in E Minor. Here's Anne-Julie Caron again, casting a spell with the Allemande.
Baroque music that is at once demanding and delightful, elaborate and sensuous. Hear: Johann Sebastian Bach
Georg Friedrich Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli, Henry Purcell, Jean-Philippe Rameau and more!