Leclair: Troisième livre de sonates, Op. 5/ 3, 4, 6, 10, 11

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COMPOSERS: Leclair
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Troisième livre de sonates, Op. 5/ 3, 4, 6, 10, 11
PERFORMER: Convivium
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67033
Leclair was the leading French violinist of his time – possibly the best in Europe – and also the composer who most fully realised François Couperin’s ideal of les goûts réunis, the synthesis of French and Italian tastes. Op. 5, the third of his four ‘livres’ of sonatas for solo violin and basso continuo, was published in Paris in 1734 and shows Leclair continuing to develop a highly personal style that incorporated harmonic audacity, precisely detailed ornamentation and a concern for preserving the nobility of the melody line.

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The most impressive versions of Leclair solo sonatas currently available are by François Fernandez, whose selections from Livres 1 and 4 can be found on two Auvidis CDs. Convivium’s Elizabeth Wallfisch sounds a less authoritative soloist in this repertoire. Her phrasing can be brusque at times, perhaps because Convivium tends to play the quicker movements a shade too quickly, disregarding Leclair’s warning that to hurry the music results in a trivialising of the melody. Fernandez also prefers to use a viola da gamba in the continuo; Convivium opts for the heavier cello, which not only alters the balance of the sound but also skews the ensemble dynamics here, sometimes detracting from the violin’s flowing pre-eminence. Graham Lock