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GRAMOPHONE ( 05/ 2019)
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Reviewer: Charlotte Gardner

On this marvellous Leclair concerto programme Leila Schayegh plays Nos 2 and 6 from each of Leclair’s Opp 7 and 10 sets – which in the case of Op 7 are exactly the two concertos that Fabio Biondi didn’t record on his recent Leclair album (also Glossa, 7/17). This makes for a sweet piece of symmetry to an album that has balance everywhere, and means that the two discs complement each other perfectly.

This begins with the ensemble instrumentalists using plain unwound gut strings for a nicely soft and dark sound over which the soloists, on silver-wound gut, can then bounce and glide in slightly more timbrally piquant fashion – soloists plural, because second violinist Sonoko Asabuki is as much a part of the gently virtuoso picture in moments such as the slightly Vivaldian third-movement Allegro of Op 7 No 2 in D major. It continues with the dancing Italian buoyancy being kept always in check by a suitably elegantly French approach to overall expression (nothing too unbridled) and tempo (nothing too fast). Limpid textures are another draw; for a moment where all the above qualities come happily together, listen to Op 10 No 6’s central major-key Aria, warmly stringy at the opening with just the solo violins, before blossoming out into velvety whole-ensemble fullness.

Schayegh herself is delectable in the single-soloist writing. For instance, hear the multicoloured delicacy and suppleness she brings to the subtle virtuosities of Op 10 No 2’s opening Allegro, followed by the poetic rhetoric she brings to her rubato when the orchestra falls silent. Her self-written booklet notes are also possibly the most engaging and thoughtfully intelligent ones on Leclair I’ve yet read. In fact, if you’re looking to own the complete Op 7 concertos you could do a lot worse than to pair the Schaylegh and Biondi; tunings-wise they are virtually identical (Schaylegh at 408Hz and Biondi at 407Hz), plus you also get the pleasure of the Op 10 pair.

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