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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: Sonates en trio, op. 4

London Baroque have recorded the opus four collection of trio sonatas by Jean-Marie Leclair on Harmonia Mundi some years ago. From among LB's Harmonia Mundi recordings, this remains likely their strongest before moving on to BIS recordings. Leclair the composer was a fan of the Corelli school, but as a Frenchman in a somewhat later generation, found himself in a tough spot. He could get away with adopting a more less avant style, more closely aligned with the harmony of Corelli. Yet, the rise in the Italian goût pushed him in new technical directions. The result was well-wrought pieces, strong in harmony and pulse. His technical demands merited practice by musicians; he always seemed to be in the shadow of other trendsetters, Locatelli among others. The opening adagio of the second sonata, in B-flat major, is a happy, rich piece, which is too playful to be Corelli. Instead, it reminds one of the Italian-inspired sonatas by the earlier François Couperin. The next movement, an Allegro ma non troppo is modern enough to be confused with one of Telemann's Sonates Corellisantes. The closing Allegro sets each of the upper voices against the other in counterpoint. Leclair was stylistically French, but we might describe him as a wannabe Italian. The result is music that's richer than some of the contemporary Italian fare. Or the best of it, a few years prior. One can't help but think of Valentini's work in the third Sonata's first Allegro. It's almost completely Italian in style and flavor. Which begs us to ask how it was performed in France? Did the same playing style work across the border? It's up to the performer to give the work a more intense drive and immediacy. Or, it could be performed more relaxed, more lightly. London Baroque don't play with the athleticism of say a certain group from Köln in Germany, but they also don't shy on tempi. The final Allegro from the third sonata is a real tour de force, if the pedal is applied to this sonata's engine. LB doesn't send the engine into overdrive, instead, they push enough and leave enough play with dynamics and fancy to attack those unmistakably non-Italian flourishes at the end of certain phrases that cue us that this piece may be French instead of Italian. I'd like to think Leclair spent his holidays on the current French riviera, so adept at mixing the national styles. The Giga from the masterly-wrought Sonata V in this Fan of Biber's favorite key, G minor, is a real toe tapping, foot-stomping piece that I only wish London Baroque had even pushed harder. It'd make a fine encore piece in a concert. The drive and the richness in sound, however, go to London Baroque. It was Leclair's ideas, for sure, but London Baroque's performance which make this recording a real winner. Now surely in re-issue, this is a fine example of Jean-Marie Leclair's ouvere of chamber music, a fine companion to his four books of solo violin sonatas (with b.c.) and his violin concerti.

Concerti op. 2, op. 5, op. 6

Corelli: Arcangelo