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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 Violin Concertos

Classic Standage with CM90

Classic Standage with CM90

Recorded in 1993 at St. Jude's on the Hill, this was among the first of Collegium Musicum 90's recordings on Chandos Chaconne. The band is made up of Standage's pals from other London-based ensembles. Like the AAM and English Concert, this ensemble uses multiple violins (eight total), double cellos, a bass, and harpsichord. Standage's sound on his Grancino violin from 1685 is a little weak sounding; but I think it would come across better with faster bow strokes and less vibrato.

To my knowledge, Leclair was among the first French baroque composers to write a violin concerto and CM90 is among the first ensembles to record them. Standage performs two concertos from Leclair's opus 7 and two from opus 10. He's chosen one major and one minor from each collection.

The balance between violin and orchestra is well done, and the natural acoustic of the church is well-captured in the recorded sound. At the time of first receiving this recording, I remember thinking Leclair's writing in the concerto style was interesting as it was different from the stock of Italian examples from Vivaldi, or even Bach. Leclair's style could be described as light, as in an "approaching the classical period" style, but not necessarily in the same vein as Tartini or Locatelli. Little changes in tonality like the opening of the op. 10 no. 1 concerto, third movement, are enough to raise an eyebrow (in a good way).

Given the time, however, I feel that CM90's performances are lacking in drama, which in the end is too bad for Leclair. His concertos have not been popular fodder for recordings, and CM90's collection may be the most easily accessible of Leclair's recorded concertos. The last concerto, op. 10 no. 5, puts Standage at the full extremes of his instrument; at the upper register, his violin almost comes alive, with a very nice sweetness and carrying power. At the lower end, however, it sounds muffled and lacks power. The nuances from the orchestra are there, but they are simply too light. The tempi could also use a kick for the outer movements. In the end, these recordings aren't bad, but I feel they fail to fully exploit the potential provided within. There's a lot more excitement that could be culled from Leclair's pages.

Café Zimmermann performs Vivaldi's Opus 3

Biondi plays Tartini