- Sonata for 2 violins or viols in B minor, Op. 12/1
- Sonata for 2 violins or viols in E major, Op. 12/2
- Sonata for 2 violins or viols in D major, Op. 12/3
- Sonata for 2 violins or viols in A major, Op. 12/4
- Sonata for 2 violins or viols in G minor, Op. 12/5
- Sonata for 2 violins or viols in B flat major, Op. 12/6
A number of French composers from the middle of the eighteenth century wrote sonatas for two violins unaccompanied; the genre was an attractive one for commercial publishers, who marketed works like these to amateur players and felt free to suggest alternative instrumentation. For Jean-Marie Leclair the Elder, whose virtuoso works for violin formed the basis for a durable French violin school, works like the sonatas on this album must have represented a come-down with their requirement that they remain within reach of average players. As it happened, Leclair made a virtue of necessity, applying his violinistic skill toward the goal of creating musically satisfying textures for the spare combination of two violins. The chief appeal of these pieces lies in the way they make you forget that there are just two violins playing, and more generally in the way they make music of modest technical means sound great. Montreal-based violinists Marc Destrub� and Chantal R�millard, playing modern instruments, catch this elegant aspect of Leclair's music nicely. As a duo they seem to have an instinctive understanding of one another's next move, and they execute the instrumental balance in double- and triple-stop passages (the outer movements of the "Sonata No. 2 in E major" provide good examples) so well that the violin duo sounds like a small string orchestra. On the other hand, when it comes to crescendos, decrescendos, and tempo alternations, they push the music a bit beyond what it can bear. And the echo-heavy sound environment of the Quebec church where the music was recorded is all wrong; it swallows up the music, and it hardly evokes the domestic settings for which these pieces were intended. If this is not the last world on Leclair l'a�n�'s second book of sonatas for two violins, it does capture their basic virtues.