Adrian Butterfield

Jean-Marie Leclair: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-4, Book 1

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Jean-Marie Leclair was the first composer to truly establish a French style of playing for the violin and elevate the instrument to its rightful place as soloist. He also successfully merged his native French style with the very popular Italian school in which he immersed himself. Though he wrote four books of violin sonatas, only the latter ones are heard with any regularity, making this Naxos recording of the first book of sonatas. The pervasive and understandable influence of Corelli in these sonatas is impossible to miss, yet Leclair still maintains the austere sophistication associated with the French Baroque. The first four sonatas of book one heard here are performed on Baroque violin (Adrian Butterfield), harpsichord (Laurence Cummings), and viola da gamba (Alison McGillivray). All three musicians unite in a singular interpretive vision of Leclair's early writings. Articulation and ornamentation match closely, and the sparingly and appropriately used moments of tempo rubato are seamlessly executed. Butterfield's sound is clear and pure with conservative use of vibrato; intonation is pristine, and technical challenges such as double- and triple-stopping are executed with a sense of comfort and ease. Balance within the trio sometimes unduly favors the violin; some listeners will find themselves straining to hear the very active and interesting gamba part in the background.

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