Leclair: Sonatas – Op. 1, No. 5, Op. 2 No. 2 & Op. 3 No. 5; Senaille: Sonatas – Op. 1 Nos 5 & 6, Op. 3 No. 10 & Op. 4 No. 5
Théotime Langlois de Swarte (violin), William Christie (harpsichord)
Harmonia Mundi HAF 8905292 64:13 mins
Senaillé and Leclair were composers and violin virtuosos of the same generation of late French Baroque musicians. Théotime Langlois de Swarte and William Christie, on the other hand, are not, and from their age difference of almost half a century derives the title of their recording.
Jean-Baptiste Senaillé has been ill-served in the concert hall and the studio. This splendid disc, outstandingly well recorded, makes a pleasing gesture towards remedying matters. What Senaillé and Leclair have in common is an ability to unite Italian brilliance and virtuosity with French beau chant. Both composers studied in Italy and both appeared as soloists at the Paris Concert Spirituel. The sonatas chosen here demonstrate the success with which the imitative devices of Italian writing are blended with the graceful melodies and dance rhythms of France. The ‘Corrente’ and ‘Sarabanda’ of Senaillé’s beguiling E minor Sonata afford an illuminating example of such contrasts.
If Senaillé’s music is not invariably able to hold our full attention the same cannot be said of Leclair. The first movement of his A major Sonata is charged with Italian bravura and appealing melodic ideas, while the ‘Sarabanda’ yields a fragrant allure which gives way to a playful ‘Giga’. The remaining Leclair Sonata in F major is a more ambitious piece with double stopping and, in the rondeau finale extended passages of bariolage. Langlois de Swarte negotiates all with insouciant ease, enhanced by the rapport of Christie’s harpsichord playing. Just occasionally I regretted the absence of a stringed instrument in the basso continuo, but it is a small matter.