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The French composer Jean-Marie Leclair wrote 12 violin concertos in total, six in each of two collections published in 1737 and 1745. Fabio Biondi and the eleven musicians of Europa Galante, the orchestra he founded, perform four from the first of these, Leclair’s Op.7. In their music, Biondi and friends summon the refined manners, graceful, light-hearted gestures, rococo freshness, even in a sense the lacy embroidery and heady perfume of Louis XV’s decadent 18th-century Parisian court.

They open with the C major concerto, third in the album and the best known as it also occurs in the flute and oboe solo repertoire. It features a clean-cut, unfussy theme, which beams warmly from the tutti strings. These are not concerti as Leclair’s contemporary Vivaldi knew the form, with solo episodes and ensemble ritornellos. Here the soloist Biondi mimics what the tutti has just played with some variation and an intensified focus. The slow movement shifts to the relative A minor with dramatic piano and forte passages and a weeping melody for the soloist, played with affecting sensitivity by Biondi. The orchestra frolics in the three-time allegro finale marked by growling unison passages and virtuosic, shining flights for the soloist, his ‘authentic’ tuning a little bitter against the ensemble.

Each concerto has three movements, quick-slow-quick. The D minor (No. 1) has a central ‘Aria’, which Biondi plays with expressive beauty in plaintive double-stopped thirds. Elsewhere he improvises unwritten cadenzas, keeping just within the idiom of this tasteful, galant, unsuspecting age. A haunting evocation.

Rick Jones Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing