Leclair: Trio Sonatas, Op. 4

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COMPOSERS: Leclair
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Trio Sonatas, Op. 4
PERFORMER: London Baroque
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901617
Best known for his violin sonatas, Jean-Marie Leclair was one of a number of composers from the first half of the 18th century who attempted a synthesis of French and Italian styles. He was skilled at dancing and, in the footsteps of his father, lacemaking. However, it was his performances as a violinist for which Leclair received most plaudits: of his rhythmic freedom and beautiful tone, one contemporary declared that he played ‘like an angel’. Unfortunately, his dealings with colleagues were decidedly more terrestrial in outlook: Leclair was periodically involved in disputes until he was murdered by his nephew in 1764.

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In addition to combining French and Italian idioms, the set of Sonates en trio, Op. 4, blends the church sonata (complete with fugal movements) with the dance movements of the chamber sonata. The result is a charming amalgam of genres. Although there are few hints of the rhythmic flexibility which characterised Leclair’s playing, London Baroque manages to instil life into all six sonatas. Charm and elegance are underpinned by a mercurial current of raw energy to produce a particularly engaging account of music which deserves to be better known. Christopher Dingle