Leclair: Violin Sonatas, Op. 9/1, 3, 5, 8

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Leclair
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Leclair
WORKS: Violin Sonatas, Op. 9/1, 3, 5, 8
PERFORMER: Simon Standage (violin), Nicholas Parle (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0726
What with Les Folies Françoises’ recent excursion into Leclair’s Op. 5 Sonatas (on Alpha, reviewed in February), and now Simon Standage’s engagement with Op. 9, the ‘French Corelli’ seems to be enjoying something of a comeback. Not that Leclair was exactly languishing under a bushel. Standage builds on well-received earlier discs of the sonatas and concertos; and Op. 9 has long attracted such non-specialists as Szeryng and Perlman – thanks, no doubt, to its heightened virtuosity and to its increased musical ambition.

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Standage, of course, imparts ‘period’ insights, balancing the Sonata’s frisky second movement with an eloquently-turned Sarabande topped off by a Tambourin that is simultaneously rustic yet rocket-propelled! He stresses the ‘French’ rather than the ‘Corelli’, and there’s a generosity of spirit that characterises his whole approach, relishing the twists and turns of the A minor Sonata as much as the purposeful coquetry which animates the arpeggiated third movement of the Sonata No. 1. It’s a stroke of genius to leaven Leclair with composer thumbnail portraits – of Forqueray and of Leclair himself – for harpsichord (though Nicholas Parle doesn’t quite have the easy idiomatic flair of a Rousset), and the powerfully cumulative Tempo di Ciaccona of the Sonata No. 8 ensures a red-letter finale to a beautifully recorded disc. Paul Riley