I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Leclair: Sonatas, op. 13

Born in 1697, Leclair was a successful French composer that carried a lighter, more-galante feel to his music than his contemporaries, such as Rameau. His life met an unfortunate end in 1764, as Leclair was victim to a murder by stabbing. The Grotesque aside, Leclair was recognized as the "French Corelli," and published this collection, op. 13, in 1753. The titles here are confusing, unless you first look at the origins of the works. They all began as either solo violin works (with continuo) or as ouverture movements for orchestra. The op. 13 publication was an arrangement of Leclair's earlier works into trio-sonata form, for 2 violins and continuo. Commentator and musicologist Neal Zaslaw said of these works: "That these works function so brilliantly as trios is not only a credit to Leclair's skill as an arranger but also reveals that hiding beneath the two-part virtuoso sonatas and the four- or five-part orchestral textures was, largely unnoticed, a "baroque" trio texture." Opus 13 by Leclair **Leclair: Ouvertures et Sonates en trio, op. 13 London Baroque (p)1998 Harmonia Mundi France** I first came to know Leclair through two different sources, almost at the same time: a recording of French concertos by Musica Antiqua Köln at the music library at the Eastman School, and through the violin concerto recordings by Simon Standage and Collegium Musicum 90. Having sometime later seen London Baroque in person, with the present members (Schaller, Gwilt, Medlam, and Charlston) was a special treat, and was worthy enough to consider the purchase of this very CD. Immediately when listening to the CD, you get the sense that this is indeed French music. There is a lot performers can do to give you that impression: a low pitch, the strings and instruments used, and the use of ornaments, and slower tempi. But to Leclair's credit, the French taste comes across without too many hints from the ensemble. London Baroque takes technical command in movements such as the First sonata's Allegro Assai. A good strong tempo, good division between first and second parts, sensitive continuo playing, in essence, virtuoso music played with pinache. Leclair's music is not always easy to play, but it reminds me of a comparison I once made to Italian music, and perhaps this reveals why I often think of French music when I listen to Leclair... While Italian violinists of the period strove for flair, and you knew the music was tough because of this extrovert nature, French music seemed less zesty. Relaxed tempos, the time required to caress the line with ornaments, etc. And Leclair? Without the high range of register that later Italians would use (such as Tartini), he managed to make difficult music without it sounding so difficult. His harmonic language is aligned with that of Corelli, but then similarity ends. Longer lines. More inventive transitions between sections... and a forward-looking bias on harmonic progression that somehow comes across as "lighter" and even echoes, somehow, the writing in early Haydn string quartets. Zaslaw is correct when he tells us how well these works adapt to the trio texture. Strong compositions, and enlightening arrangements. What they lack is perhaps is their similarity. While these are finely written works, without repeated listens, the music tends to wash over the listener. The conflict present in some Italian works, such as dissonance, in addition to dramatic gestures that must be realised by the performer, are mostly resisted in these works. But these issues were long debated (French vs. Italian) in the Baroque, they won't be revisited here. Clean and clear recording and performance.

Johann Schmelzer Sonatas, unarum fidium

Capriccio Stravagante