Jean-Marie Leclair

Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764) is another Baroque composer whose instrumental works I have almost in toto. He started out as a lace maker, but took dancing and violin lessons as well, eventually publishing his first book of sonatas in the early 1720s. He had further lessons with Somis in Italy, and met Locatelli. Leclair was noted for his precise playing of the violin, and had definite ideas about the way in which he wanted pieces played. He also seems to have been highly critical of his own work and is supposed to have destroyed material which he valued less highly.

Leclair married twice, and ended up living in an insalubrious part of Paris where he was found murdered. No one was ever charged, but there is a distinct possibility that the culprit was his resentful nephew and that his estranged wife was involved – probably for the money.

I am mainly missing parts of Op. 5 (Nos. 2, 5, 9, and 12), and a single piece from Op. 9 (No. 4). I’ve only recently acquired the whole of Opp. 2 and 3.

I actually started my acquaintance with Leclair about twenty-five years ago with the complete flute sonatas played by the Kuijkens, only later discovering that the same pieces could also be played on the violin.

Leclair’s legacy seems to have been the playing of the violin in France which thanks (ironically) to the Italian Lulli, was musically very conservative. At about the same time Leclair published his first works, Couperin was publishing Les goûts réunis, and trying to unite French and Italian musical styles.


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