Jean-Marie Leclair


Born: September 23, 1703 Died: November 30, 1777
Jean-Marie Leclair the younger (or "le second" or "le cadet") was one of the most talented French violinists of the late Baroque era, and a capable composer who left a small amount of attractive, but not outstanding, instrumental music.

Confusingly, he was given the same name as his much better known older brother, Jean-Marie Leclair (i), referred to as "l'aîné" ("the elder"). They were the children of Antoine Leclair and Benoîte Ferrier. The father was a master lace-maker and very good cellist. The couple had eight children, of whom six are known to have been musical. Like his older sister and two other brothers, all also violinists, Jean-Marie Leclair the younger made most of his career in his hometown. He is the most prominent of the siblings who remained home, and the second best known after the older Jean-Marie.

It is likely that he received his training at home. When he was twenty-nine he was sufficiently famous that the city of Besançon hired him to be the director of the Academy of Music there. Lyons quickly acted to get him back, offering him an annual pension to teach violin and become director of Lyons' own Academy of Fine Arts. Despite staying in Lyons, he gained nationwide fame: A 1738 Paris publication described him as one of the French violinists with a "great reputation." In 1739, he published a First book of sonatas for violin, comprising twelve works. In 1741, the city recognized his accomplishments by voting an increase in his pension. The city praised his abilities in all phases of position: as a violinist, a violin teacher, as the organizer of the concerts and opera for the city, and as a musical director who caused the music there to be played "in a much more regulated manner."

He married Jeanne-Suzanne Crus de la Chesnee in 1748. They had a son and a daughter.

In about 1750, Leclair issued his other publication, a book of six sonatas for two violins or two viols. His other compositions included, according to records, a cantata, a motet, a work designated a "symphony," and "ariettes with orchestra." All these unpublished works are lost, as is even the knowledge of any other compositions he may have produced.

The council of Lyons provided for him by naming him a secretary in perpetuity, so he evidently lived out the rest of his life comfortably. His few works surviving works are variable in quality, with uninspired movements and charming ones frequently in the same works.