Jean-Marie Leclair

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Jean-Marie Leclair

Jean-Marie Leclair l'aîné (the elder) (born  May 10, 1697 in Lyon , †  October 22, 1764 in Paris ) was a French composer and one of the most famous violinists of his time.


In his youth, Leclair learned his father Antoine's trade, basket weaving. The father must have been a good bass viol player who encouraged his numerous children to make music, because several of his children became musicians. Mention should be made of the younger brother Jean-Marie Leclair le cadet (see below).

Jean-Marie l'aîné learned to dance and to play the violin. He began his professional career as a dancer and ballet master in Lyon. There he married Marie-Rose Casthanie, also a dancer at the Lyon Opera, in 1716 at the age of 19. From 1722 he worked as a ballet master at the Turin Opera. He did not stay in Turin long; in October of the following year he was already living in Paris and published his Opus 1, which he dedicated to the banker Bonnier. During this time he received help in composition from his friend André Chéron . In 1726 Leclair was back in Turin, now he met Johann Joachim Quantz and the well-known violinist and Corelli student Giovanni Battista Somis , with whom he perfected his violin playing.

Still under Somi's influence, Leclair published his sonatas Opus 2 in 1728, which he dedicated to the son and successor of his first patron, Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson, who had since died. From 1728 he lived in his palace on Rue St. Dominique and worked as a violin teacher. During this time, his first wife, who was significantly older than Leclair, must have died. In the Holy Week of 1728 he had his first concert at the renowned Concert Spirituel in the great hall of the Tuileries Palace ; To be allowed to perform there was equivalent to the highest musical recognition.

His second marriage was in 1730 with the young engraver Louise-Cathérine Roussel; with her, Leclair had a daughter who also learned the handicraft of engraving. Louise had already engraved his works Opus 2, 3 and 4 and later engraved all other compositions. From 1733 to 1737 he was "Ordinaire de la musique du roi" at the court of Louis XV. , to whom he thanked his Op. 2 dedicated. He also gave numerous public concerts at the Concerts Spirituels until 1737. In a dispute over an originally agreed monthly change on the post of first violinist in the royal chapel with Jean-Pierre Guignon (1702–1774), also a student of Somis, he furiously left the royal orchestra.

From 1738 to 1743 he lived in the Netherlands, where he worked in The Hague with Pietro Locatelli , who had a strong influence on him. He was concertmaster in the orchestra of the wealthy businessman François de Liz. During this time he stayed three months a year at the court of Anna of Orange in Leeuwarden, a student of Handel ; he dedicated his Opus 9 to her. After de Liz went bankrupt in 1743, he returned to Paris. From 1744 he spent two years in Chambéry in the service of the Spanish heir to the throne Don Philippe .

In 1748 he became musical director and first violinist at the private theater of Duke Antoine VII. De Gramont (1722–1801), in close proximity to the French capital. In these last years of life, Leclair became an opaque person. His wife separated from him and he lived in a dump on Rue de Careme-Prenant, one of the unsafe areas of Paris.

In the early morning of October 23, 1764, he was found in his hallway, lying in a pool of blood and fatally injured by three knife wounds. The case remained unsolved, according to police files, his disapproving nephew Guillaume-François Vial, the son of his sister Françoise, was suspected. The funeral took place on October 25th. On the occasion of the first anniversary of his death, a memorial service took place on December 2, 1765 in the Église des Feuillants in the Rue St. Honoré; The Concerts Spirituels choir and orchestra performed De Profundis from de Mondonville .

It was only after his death that his wife Louise-Cathérine published the works Opus 14 and 15 due to financial difficulties. The composer and music theorist Charles-Henri de Blainville (1711–1771) referred to Leclair as the French Corelli. One of his students was Joseph Boulogne Chevalier de Saint-George.


As a virtuoso and one of the founders of the French violin school, he significantly influenced it. He managed the fusion of the French and Italian styles. His elegant and brilliant style and applied knowledge of counterpoint put his concertos and sonatas close to the works of Antonio Vivaldi .


  • Opus 1: Premier livre de sonates (1723) [Keys: A, C, B, D, G, E, F, G, A, D, B, B]
  • Opus 2: Deuxième livre de sonates (1728) [keys: e, F, C, A, G, D, B, D, E, e, b, g]
  • Opus 3: Sonates à deux violons sans basse (1730) [keys: G, A, C, F, e, D]
  • Opus 4: 6 Sonates en trio pour deux violons et B. c. (1731–1732) [keys: d, Bb, d, F, g, A]
  • Opus 5: Troisième Livre de Sonates (1734) [Keys: A, F, E, B, B, C, A, D, E, C, G, G]
  • Opus 6: Première Récréation de musique d'une exécution facile composée pour deux flûtes ou deux violons (1736) (Easily executed suite for 2 violins or flutes) [key: G]
  • Opus 7: 6 concertos a tre violini, alto e basso, per organo e violoncello (1737) [keys: d, D, C, F, a, A]
  • Opus 8: Deuxième Récréation de musique d'une exécution facile composée pour deux flûtes ou deux violons (1737) [key: g]
  • Opus 9: Quatrième Livre de Sonates (1743) [Keys: A, E, D, A, A, D, G, C, Eb, F sharp, G, G]
  • Opus 10: 6 concertos a tre violini, alto e basso, per organo e violoncello (1745) [keys: B, A, D, F, e, g]
  • Opus 12: Second livre de sonates à deux violons sans basse (1747–1749) [Keys: B, E, D, A, G, B]
  • Opus 13: 3 ouvertures et 3 sonates en trio pour 2 violons (1753) [keys: G, D, D, b, A, g]
  • Opus 14 (posthumous): Trio for 2 violins and figured bass (1766) [key: A]
  • Opus 15 (posthumous): Sonata for violin and B. c. (1767) [key: F]
  • The opera Scylla et Glaucus op.11 (first performance in Paris in 1746)

The brothers

  • In 1739 Jean-Marie Leclair le cadet (1703–1777) published his “ Premier Livre de sonates ” for violin and B. c., Op. 1 and the Duos Op. 2 from 1750 published under the supervision of the older brother. Other works such as a divertissement champêtre, 2 symphonies, ariettes with orchestra and a motet are missing. Likewise the cantata “Le Rhône et la Saône , which was performed in 1733 at the Académie des Beaux-Arts. In 1755 Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg wrote about him “ a no less great virtuoso on the violin than his eldest brother ”.
  • Pierre Leclair (1709–1784) published “ Six sonates de récréation ” for 2 violins Op. 1 and “ Six sonates de chambre ” for 2 violins Op. 2.
  • From Jean-Benoît Leclair (1714 - after 1759) only a libretto for the ballet héroique “ Le Retour de la Paix dans les Pays-Bas ” and a portrait have survived.


  • Gisela Beckmann: The French violin sonata with basso continuo from Jean-Marie Leclair to Pierre Gaviniès. Musikalienhandlung Wagner, Hamburg 1975, ISBN 3-921029-27-9 .
  • Marc Pincherle : Jean-Marie Leclair l'aîné. La Colombe, Paris 1952. ISBN 2-7307-0264-4 (reprinted 1985).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Jean-Marie Leclair virtuose et compositeur ( Memento of November 13, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF 1.6MB, French)
  2. ^ Notes and audio files by Pierre Leclair in the International Music Score Library Project