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

Leclair - Recreation, Sonate, Trio

#alttext# Collegium Musicum 90 is known for their recordings of the French composer, Jean-Marie Leclair. The arresting cover of this recording grabbed my attention some years ago, and besides, at the time, it was CM90 as about the only early music ensemble recording the music of Leclair. If you follow Leclair's music by opus number, this recording features works from op. 14, op. 3 and op. 6. The first is an orchestral suite, entitled Première récréation de musique d'une exécution facile (First musical fancy, easy to play). The suite here is played with a small chamber ensemble, presumably featuring the violin chops of director Simon Standage and his then musical partner, Micaela Comberti, who has since passed. The two previously participated in Trevor Pinnock's *English Concert before moving onto their own. (The two also played violin in their Salomon Quartet with classical repertoire). The music's quality is high - Leclair was a good composer, to my ears. While French, he did much to bridge the styles between French taste and Italian innovation. The recording pays homage to Leclair's variety in form, the 8-movement overture has a variety of musical ideas, although I would have liked to have heard it with a larger ensemble for variety. This op. 3 works are duos for solo violins (which was a form taken up by French-following Telemann). Florian Deuter has recorded the complete collection of this opus, and while CM90 is good, Dueter is probably one step ahead with verve in his playing with Monica Waisman. The final work is a trio sonata in four movements, the first a little overture. CM90's sound is a good one; for whatever reason, Standage and Comberti seem to have a French sound with their instruments. I don't have the notes at hand, but these two usually played on Italian instruments. But there's a certain darkness to their tone that speaks French to me, along with the sweetness in the higher range. The recorded sound is pretty good too, the violinists slightly stage left; the continuo back and stage right. That last work pretty much details what's both good and bad about this performance. The opener is dramatic, and the ensemble simply fails to play up this drama! There are subtleties to be sure in the playing, but everything is just a tad to "straight" for me. As I listen with time, and with the experimentation with mostly non-British ensembles in the historically-informed camps, I find myself performing more and more romantic playing styles. This isn't to say 'modern' of course, but performances that take on more drama, more contrasts... I'm confident that Standage and Company are performing all the notes on the page. They play with good intonation, and their tempos are mostly fair. Yet... there's something deeper in the music that's being squandered, perhaps. This isn't to say it's a bad recording... not enough folks are playing Leclair. This recording was no doubt an important catalyst in letting the world know more about this composer's art. If you're new to Leclair, I recommend the recordings of François Fernandez, London Baroque, the recording by Manfredo Kraemer featuring his music opposite Locatelli's, and for the violin concertos, Standage with CM90. But for chamber music, this recording might be a tad bland with its age. I can only hope it gets recorded again - because the music is that good. See my review of Leclair's fourth book performed by La Tempesta.

Bach Motets