Leclair: Sonatas for Solo Violin and basso continuo, Op. 9

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COMPOSERS: Leclair
LABELS: Zig Zag
ALBUM TITLE: Leclair
WORKS: Sonatas for Solo Violin and basso continuo, Op. 9
PERFORMER: Valérie Balssa (flute); La Tempesta/Patrick Bismuth (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: ZZT 060401-3
Leclair’s violin sonatas were published in four collections of which the last, his Op. 9, is perhaps the most impressive. Many of the Op. 9 sonatas have been previously recorded, notably by Simon Standage (Chandos) who has long championed Leclair’s music. Here’s the first release, though, to encompass the entire collection, and very rewarding it is, too. While much of Leclair’s violin writing is virtuosic, it also invariably demonstrates an expressive restraint, elevated thought and a rare gift for beautiful melodies such as are less often found in the music of his Italian contemporary and fellow virtuoso, Locatelli. Patrick Bismuth and La Tempesta give an excellent account of music which, from the opening bars of the First Sonata, reveals the originality and lyrical beauty of Leclair’s distinctive style. Bismuth responds to the multifarious requirements, technical and expressive, with affection, precise intonation and just declamation.

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Two of the 12 Sonatas were written expressly for the then newly fashionable transverse flute. Leclair included flute sonatas in his previous collections, revealing a knowledge of the instrument’s strengths and a sensibility to its sound which assures them a place of distinction in Baroque flute repertoire. Valérie Balssa plays both Sonatas with that requisite blend of unassuming virtuosity and good taste. A splendid issue. Nicholas Anderson