After decades during which the unaccompanied violin sonatas and partitas of Bach stood alone, regarded by all but specialists as rather freakish musical occurrences, recent years have seen a growth of interest in the virtuoso violin repertory of the Baroque. Composers like Biber, Pisendel, and Tartini have all shown up with increasing frequency on concert programs and recordings.
It's hard to believe this CD was done with only a violin, viola da gama and harpsichord. This is polyphonic music at its finest. It does tribute to Buxtehude, who preceded Bach. The ensemble is perfect - the instruments complement each other. When they go from slow to fast, it is remarkable to hear the contrast. These are expert musicians with a complete mastery of their instruments. They use loud-soft as easily as any masters of the Baroque. The result is joyous, lively and entertaining.
These two discs contain Leclair's 12 sonatas for two unaccompanied violins en duo. He produced them in two sets of six, the earlier one, Op. 3, dating from 1730, the later one from 1747-9. Barely a handful have previously been recorded, so these new issues make an important addition to the baroque catalogue. Leclair more than any of his French contemporaries implemented the technical developments in violin playing which were taking place in Italy in the hands of the post-Corelli generation.
The violin was perhaps the most popular instrument of the 17th century. It turns up in nearly every Baroque instrumental genre, including the solo sonata, the concerto, and the immensely popular trio sonata (for two violins, often complimented by harpsichord, organ, or theorbo). Much less common, but equally compelling, are pieces for three violins with some sort of plucked or strummed accompaniment.
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