Virtuoso French Baroque concertos given charismatic readings

The Strad Issue: 
August 2017
Description:  Virtuoso French Baroque concertos given charismatic readings 
Fabio Biondi (violin), Europa Galante
Composer:  Leclair
Catalogue Number:  GLOSSA GCD 923407

This disc of concertos by violinist–composer Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764) invites us into an enticing sound world of violin virtuosity by a key figure from an early French school of violin playing. Europa Galante, founded in 1990 by Fabio Biondi, takes a multidimensional approach, evident from the outset in the Concerto in C major which, in many respects, stands out as the strongest composition and performance. There is a wonderful depth to the sonority of the recording, although, as in the first movement of the A minor Concerto, this can result in some slightly bass-heavy sounds. The architectural beauty of the playing renders the occasional tempo manipulations needlessly idiosyncratic (such as a brief but marked ritardando in the opening tutti of the F major Concerto). Biondi’s own playing, too, sits a little uneasily within this context. There is a lot of (conventional) vibrato that, positively, brings the solo part forward in the texture, but at the same time seems anachronistic. Biondi’s intonation can also sound uneasy, although it can impel characterisation of the more remote keys in the finale  of the C major, for example. Taken as a whole, this is an enjoyable and charismatic disc, well (if not flawlessly) presented by Glossa. Stimulating listening. DAVID MILSOM