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Neal Zaslaw

[l’aîné]

Member of Leclair family

(b Lyons, May 10, 1697; d Paris, Oct 22, 1764). French composer, violinist, and dancer. He is considered the founder of the French violin school.

Before his 19th year, Leclair mastered violin playing, dancing, and lacemaking. He was then listed among the dancers at the Lyons opera, together with Marie-Rose Casthagnié whom he married on November 9, 1716. He may also have been active as a dancer and violinist in Rouen, where according to Gerber his patron was Mme Mezangère (La Laurencie however doubted the Rouen connection).

Leclair was in Turin in 1722, where he may have been drawn by employment at royal wedding festivities; he was evidently active there as a ballet-master, though he did not hold an official position. Possibly he received violin lessons from G.B. Somis.

Going to Paris in 1723, Leclair came under the patronage of one of the richest men in France, Joseph Bonnier, while he prepared his op.1 for publication. These sonatas were recognized for their originality and, according to one contemporary, they ‘appeared at first a kind of algebra capable of rebuffing the most courageous musicians’. Another wrote: ‘Le Clair est le premier qui sans imiter rien, Créa du beau, du neuf, qu’il peut dire le sien’ (‘Le Clair is the first person who, without imitating anything, created beautiful and new things, which he could call his own’)....