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Bob Neill
Positive Feedback Online, January 2012

LECLAIR, J.-M.: Violin Sonatas, Op. 1, Nos. 1-4 (Butterfield, McGillivray, Cummings) 8.570888
LECLAIR, J.-M.: Violin Sonatas, Op. 1, Nos. 5-8 (Butterfield, McGillivray, Cummings) 8.570889
LECLAIR, J.-M.: Violin Sonatas, Op. 1, Nos. 9-12 (Butterfield, McGillivray, Cummings) 8.570890

French baroque composer Jean-Marie LeClair can be played courtly and refined like his contemporary countrymen Rameau, Charpentier, and Couperin; or he can be played with a bit of rustic, rural flavor. Butterfieid, McGillivray, and Cummings, all well known and highly accomplished period musicians…split the difference. Their LeClair is lively, tangy, and occasionally quite poignantly troubadour-like. Butterfield’s violin is the dominant voice here, of course, and his sound has a marvelous balance of beauty and chutzpa, smoothness and piquancy. His mastery of the difficult baroque instrument, his purity of tone even when he is pushed by LeClair to the edge, is a thing to behold and truly captivating.

One of the best things about Naxos, especially over the last decade as they’ve gotten their feet on the ground in the classical music recording industry, is how nimble (and generous) they seem compared with the competition. © 2012 Positive Feedback Online Read complete review

Lucy Robinson
Early Music, July 2010

LECLAIR, J.-M.: Violin Sonatas, Op. 1, Nos. 1-4 (Butterfield, McGillivray, Cummings) 8.570888
LECLAIR, J.-M.: Violin Sonatas, Op. 1, Nos. 5-8 (Butterfield, McGillivray, Cummings) 8.570889
LECLAIR, J.-M.: Violin Sonatas, Op. 1, Nos. 9-12 (Butterfield, McGillivray, Cummings) 8.570890

Equally welcome are the three separate discs of Jean-Marie Leclair: Violin sonatas book 1 (Naxos 8.570888/9/90, rec 2008, 64′, 55′, 58′) performed by Adrian Butterfield (Baroque violin), Alison McGillivray (viola da gamba) and Laurence Cummings (harpsichord). Leclair (1697–1764), who played such a vital role in the development of the French violin school, has been underrated and under-recorded; his music certainly does have the depth and variety to merit three CDs. During his lifetime he was hailed as the ‘Corelli of France’ (Blainville), and in 1728 Leclair’s popularity was such that he played his own sonatas and concertos ten times at the Concert Spirituel. Ferrand recalled him as ‘a veritable artist, passionate about the violin…with a soul as pure and candid as that of Corelli, incapable of jealousy, and delighted by the talent of his rivals’. At last players have easy access to the twelve works of his Premier livre de sonates (c.1723), a quarter of his published violin sonatas, at a budget price. Leclair was particularly renowned for his innovative chordal writing: ‘the first Frenchman, who, in imitation of the Italians, plays double stopping…And he has made such strides in this technique that the Italians themselves avow he is one of the leaders in this genre.’ Op.1, no.12 is full of challenging double stopping, not least in the two fast movements both marked Allegro ma non troppo. Describing Leclair’s playing, Ancelet writes: ‘everyone is in agreement that he is an exact, precise and rigid observer of the rules…His extraordinary precision might be seen to dampen the vivacity and fire of his imagination, but his disciplined nature pervades all his playing: and if one can reproach him for this defect, how much is one not compensated by his understanding and the cleanness of his playing.’ These fine qualities are inherent in Butterfield’s performance; sometimes, and not least in op.1, no.12, like Ancelet, I miss characterization, fire and daring. There is beautiful viol playing too, in the Musette of op.1, no.8 for example, but generally the balance favours the violin; if one remembers that Jean-Baptiste Forqueray was a close colleague of Leclair, I think a stronger bass line shaping Leclair’s rich harmony is called for. The performance of op.1, no.8 is particularly successful, with a relaxed and pleasing opening Largo, a fiery Vivace with good rhythmic grip, the haunting Musette and the elegant extended Tempo gavotta with its Altro in the tonic minor.

Johan van Veen
MusicWeb International, May 2010

LECLAIR, J.-M.: Violin Sonatas, Op. 1, Nos. 1-4 (Butterfield, McGillivray, Cummings) 8.570888

LECLAIR, J.-M.: Violin Sonatas, Op. 1, Nos. 5-8 (Butterfield, McGillivray, Cummings) 8.570889

LECLAIR, J.-M.: Violin Sonatas, Op. 1, Nos. 9-12 (Butterfield, McGillivray, Cummings) 8.570890

Adrian Butterfield has grasped the character of Leclair’s sonatas very well. He plays them with panache and shows a good feeling for the various features of these compositions. In general the articulation and the dynamic shading are satisfying, and much attention has been paid to the rhythmic pulse. Many movements really come off like dance music. This is also due to the excellent support of Alison McGillivray and Laurence Cummings…this set…testifies to Leclair’s greatness as a composer and as a performer. In particular lovers of music for violin will enjoy these three discs.

Julie Anne Sadie
Gramophone, February 2010

ltalianate invention abounds in this new Leclair disc from Butterfield and Co

This CD completes Adrian Butterfield’s three-disc set of Leclair’s first volume of violin sonatas from 1723. Like the others, this disc is shaped by exquisite phrasing and studded with lovely Italianate ornamentation and French enflés. The tempi are by turns graceful and exuberant. There is, in fact, so much to savour: the charm of the dances; the refreshing rustic quality of two of the rondeaux; the glorious homage to birdsong in the D major Sonata; and double-stopping that pervades the whole of the B minor Sonata. Here, as before, Butterfield plays with assurance and musicality. The bass viol and harpsichord accompaniments from Alison McGillivray and Laurence Cummings are sublime and, just occasionally, Leclair allows them the last word!

Leclair’s attention to detail within movements and whole sonatas was to be expected from the son of a lacemaker but he was not merely superb technician: though double-stops and bariolage abound, tunes always prevail over technique. To gain an appreciation of how Leclair’s Op 1 stands among his contemporaries, keen listeners might well revisit recordings of Corelli’s Op 5, Vivaldi’s Op 2 and even Handel’s Op 1—for like Handel, Leclair sought out and absorbed the Italian style and then allowed it to filter through his own native style, from which his own distinctive voice emerged. Let’s hear more Leclair, I say!

James Manheim, January 2010

This is the third of three discs devoted to Jean-Marie Leclair’s Op. 1 set of sonatas for violin and continuo. It’s not clear whether the series is going to continue to Leclair’s later publications; the sequential treatment of the sonatas on single discs could get a bit unwieldy. On its own merits, however, this is an enjoyable French Baroque disc from the consistently elegant period-instrument violinist Adrian Butterfield. He writes his own notes, not including any information about his instrument or equipment. But he offers brisk, bright readings of these sonatas that merge the Corelli violin style with French features such as the gavotte, allemande, gigue (jig), and sarabande dances, all of which get an attractively light hint of dance rhythms here. Butterfield differentiates nicely between the pure Italian melody of the largo of the Violin Sonata in B minor, Op. 1, No. 12, and the “sarabandas” in the ninth and tenth sonatas, just a bit more courtly. There aren’t many violinistic fireworks in the fast movements, although they appear later in Leclair’s career. Instead, the listener is treated to well-shaped melodies in which the French and Italian influences tend to merge imperceptibly. In keeping with Leclair’s own directions, Butterfield aims for a “gay” treatment of the Allegros rather than turning on the speed. The result is an hour of music that even newcomers to Baroque performance will find pleasing, despite the over-live sound environment of St. Mary’s church in Walthamstow, London. Notes are in English and French.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, November 2009

The first two CDs of this set were unalloyed joy [8.570888 & 8.570889]—and the same holds true for this disc, which completes Book I. Their performances on all three discs are models of precision, good taste and excellent balance between the instruments.

Bob Neill
Positive Feedback Online, November 2009

The four sonatas in this set conclude a three-CD series of the composer’s Book I, music written around 1723, near the beginning of his career. All three musicians get the spirit of the music admirably well. Both McGillivray and Cummings are established in the field. McGillivray has played with most of the English early music ensembles, most recently with John Eliot Gardiner’s English Baroque Soloists in the Bach Cantata cycle. Cummings has recorded one of the very best albums of the keyboard music of Couperin (for Naxos). [Several, in fact – Ed. COUPERIN Music for Harpsichord Vol 1 (8.550961), COUPERIN Music for Harpsichord Vol 2 (8.550962), COUPERIN Harpsichord Suites, Tombeau de M. de Blancocher (8.550922)] Butterfield is new to me but seems very fine. This music would lose much of its ‘natural’ appeal played with excessive virtuosity and Butterfield avoids that nicely.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2009

The third and final disc in the first book of Jean-Marie Leclair’s violin sonatas, the second installment having been issued and reviewed last September. The viol dominated French string music at the time of his birth in 1697, but following time spent in Italy, where he was much influenced by Corelli, he was the first major French composer to bring the Baroque violin to the same level of popularity. The twelve opus 1 sonatas were such a success when published in 1723 that they received an unprecedented demand requiring four reprints. Essentially written in the form of elaborate dances, they were to stimulate so many virtuoso performers that in later life Leclair indicated the tempos for each movement, complaining that they were being played far too fast. As he has already shown, Adrian Butterfield takes an relaxed view, allowing his violin to sing, the trills and turns never rushed and phrases lovingly shaped. We must take at face value that his latitude of rhythmic fluctuation would have been used at the time of composition. To sample that calm atmosphere turn to track 4—the opening Adagio of the tenth sonata—while the following Allegro finale is unhurried. I don’t know why he has chosen to play them in a different order to the original numbering, but the Ninth does make for a lively and happy disc conclusion, the second movement Allemanda showing Leclair at his most persuasive. Throughout Laurence Cummings adds a very positive harpsichord accompaniment, Alison McGillivray’s viola da gamba underpinning and adding a sure bass line. Premiere league sound quality.

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