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Jean-Marie LECLAIR (1697-1764)
Six Trio Sonatas for 2 violins & basso continuo, Op. 4 (c. 1731/1733)
Sonata No. 1 in D minor [9:22]
Sonata No. 2 in B flat major [10:14]
Sonata No. 3 in D minor [14:48]
Sonata No. 4 in F major [10:16]
Sonata No. 5 in G minor [11:28]
Sonata No. 6 in A major [10:39]
Musica Alta Ripa
rec. 1992, Furstliche Reitbahn, Bad Arolsen, Germany
MDG 309 0428-2 [70:20]

In 2013 Hanover-based ensemble Musica Alta Ripa won considerable acclaim for its collection of Leclair’s Récréations de musique 1 & 2 and a pair of Duo Sonatas on MDG (review). Now MDG on its Gold label has reissued Musica Alta Ripa’s album of the set of Six Trio Sonatas, Op. 4 originally released in 1993.

One of the finest virtuoso violinists of his day, Lyon-born baroque-era composer Jean-Marie Leclair is said to have founded the French violin school. Leclair performed at the Concert Spirituel and later worked for the French court as ordinaire de la musique (1733/1737), the Court of Orange, Netherlands (1738/1743) and at The Hague (1740/1743). Later living in a dangerous area of Paris, Leclair was stabbed to death in 1764.

Dominant in Leclair’s compositional output throughout his life was his instrumental music, notably solo, duets and trio sonatas for violin(s). Leclair’s characteristic compositional style included his use of varied melodic invention, lavishly expressive harmonies yet rhythmic economy. In 1746, Scylla et Glaucus Leclair’s single opera was successfully premièred at Paris. According to information in the booklet essay, this Op. 4 set of Trio Sonatas for 2 violins and basso continuo was probably written in 1731/1733 during Leclair’s period with the royal orchestra in Paris. All the sonatas are cast in the traditional four-movement form of the sonata da chiesa except for the five-movement No. 3.

Founded in 1984, Musica Alta Ripa are period music specialists. They play here with authentic instruments with gut strings and period bows. The keyboards and the theorbo are modern copies. The group is in remarkable form, with top-drawer playing here. The Allegros are lively and uplifting, the slow movements calm with a near meditative quality with graceful and appealing dance movements. The stylish playing of Musica Alta Ripa has profound sensitivity, an overall precision and ideal ensemble.

This was recorded in 1992 at Furstliche Reitbahn, Bad Arolsen. The engineers have provided crystal-clear sound which does not omit the basso continuo, and admirable balance. Written by Joachim Steinheuer, the informative essay in the booklet is first-class.

Admirers of French Baroque will be in their element with this reissue of Leclair’s set of trio sonatas on MDG.
Michael Cookson



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