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Leclair issued four collections of Sonatas for violin and continuo between 1723 and 1743. Considering the consistently high level of musical interest in these pieces, it is astonishing that violinists have not explored them more thoroughly. Now, at last, Adrian Butterfield is doing just that. He has already recorded the 12 sonatas of Leclair’s Book I (Naxos) and has recently completed a recorded survey of the composer’s Book II of which this disc contains six of the 12 sonatas.

Leclair was a celebrated virtuoso who, like his Italian contemporary Locatelli with whom he sometimes played, travelled widely, appearing at concerts in England, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands as well as his native France. Leclair’s violin sonatas are comfortably on a par with the best that was coming out of Italy. They are inventive and technically challenging but, while the Italian sonata provided a template, it is their subtle blend of virtuosity with French melodic patterns and dance rhythms that give this music its distinctive and irresistible charm.

Butterfield is pleasingly receptive to the French ‘beau chant’, bringing expressive warmth and affective gestures to slow movements. Faster movements fare pretty well too, though sometimes I felt that Leclair’s more extrovert passagework was understated. It is to be hoped that Butterfield and his excellent continuo partners will record the third and fourth books.

Nicholas Anderson Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing