Notes and Editorial Reviews
Overture in A,
Violin Sonatas: in a,
op. 5/6, ?Le tombeau?;
Violin Concerto in g,
Patrick Cohën-Akenine (vn), dir; Léonor de Recondo (vn); François Poly (vc); Béatrice Martin (hpd); O des Folies Françoises (period
ALPHA 083 (67:53)
Usually with repertoire of this kind we are given all sonatas, or all orchestral works. Here, typical of Alpha?s refreshingly innovative approach, there?s a mixture, with three sonatas from Leclair?s
Troisième livre de sonatas
, published as op. 5 in 1734, framed by a trio sonata based on the overture to Leclair?s opera
Scylla et Glaucus
(1746), and the remarkably dramatic G-Minor Violin Concerto.
In the preface to his op. 13 of 1753, Leclair made clear that he had included an arrangement of the
overture in order that it might become more widely known than was possible as an orchestral introduction to an opera. His instinct to bring it into wider circulation was sound, since it is a splendid four-movement piece that works very well in this form, especially in a performance as outstanding as the one to hand. I find it marginally preferable to the very good performance by the Rare Fruits Council (
25: 6), particularly in the Largo (iii), where the sinuously winding lines are more effective at Les Folies Françoises?s less indulgently slow tempo.
The publication of the 12 op. 5 sonatas dates from a period when Leclair?s fame reached its zenith. Late in 1733, he had achieved all-important official court recognition when he was appointed
ordinaire de la musique du roi
, and he responded by dedicating the publication of the sonatas to Louis XV. All are in four movements that follow a slow-fast-slow-fast sequence. The A-Minor and B? Sonatas open with the kind of long, tenderly gracious melody that gained the violinist Leclair fame for the beauty of his tone, but the dark, richly double-stopped Grave that opens the Sonata in C Minor moves in a world aptly suited to a work named ?Le tombeau.? Faster movements display Leclair?s debt to Corelli (A-Minor/ii), while the virtuosic nature of his writing comes to the fore in a movement like the Gavotta gratioso of the C-Minor, a set of variations that becomes increasing animated before relaxing to end in a passage of quiet lyrical beauty. Patrick Cohën-Akenine?s admirable performances capture not only the lyrical grace of Leclair in the beautifully shaped slow movements, but easily embrace the more demanding writing in playing that achieves true virtuosity without ever becoming forced or mannered.
The Concerto in G Minor, probably Leclair?s best-known concerto, is in some ways a puzzling work. The last of a set of six published in 1745, dedicated to the Spanish Prince Don Philippe, the opening Allegro ma poco occupies dramatically tense, unsettled territory that seems incongruously to prefigure the
of C. P. E. Bach and other North Germans. Stylistically, it carries the concept of the ritornello concerto to a level of complexity way beyond anything attempted by Vivaldi or his fellow Venetians, as does the contrapuntal density of the final Allegro, the opening of which inspires some superbly pointed playing from Cohën-Akenine. Between comes an Aria grazioso, in effect, a Sarabande in which the continuous double stopping somehow acts to distort an elegant scene into a blurred image in which all is not quite as it seems. The soloist?s playing is again splendid throughout, and he is admirably supported by the expanded forces of Les Folies.
The disparate nature of a collection that includes some of Leclair?s finest music makes for a disc that would make an ideal introduction to a composer whose true stature is, I suspect, still not fully recognized. The entertaining notes take the unusual course of discussing the music within the context of a brief case analysis of each of the prime suspects involved with Leclair?s murder in 1764, an
never officially solved.
FANFARE: Brian Robins
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