The Strad issue
Sensitive accounts of 18th-century sonatas
Adrian Butterfield (violin) Jonathan Manson (viola da gamba) Laurence Cummings (harpsichord)
This trio offers intelligent, idiomatic performances of sonatas from Leclair’s second book, which demonstrates a striking synthesis of Italian melodiousness and French elegance. Adrian Butterfield is a neat and sensitive violinist with a secure technique and a pure tone. His lyricism in the Adagio of no.3 has a winning charm, and he executes the double/multiple-stopping and cross-string bowings in the finales of nos.2 and 4 with substantial accuracy and skill. He employs vibrato selectively, supplies extempore ornamentation in tasteful doses, notably in the Corellian opening Adagio of no.4, and characterises the graceful Aria of no.4 with a lazy French rhythmic inequality. Jonathan Manson and Laurence Cummings provide stylish support. For me, though, Butterfield’s readings would benefit from a more extrovert and less calculated approach.
These players are well served by a clear, spacious recording captured in a resonant church acoustic, even if the overall balance unduly favours the violin. They save the best until last. No.8, a trio sonata in all but name, allows each to contribute in more equal measure. Passages of imitation and dialogue are exchanged with musical sensitivity in the opening Adagio, and the spirited fugal Allegro and the animated dialogue of the finale are dispatched with due aplomb.