When Jean-Marie Leclair published his Fourth Book of Sonatas for violin and basso continuo at the age of 46, he was at the height of his career as a violinist and composer. The twelve sonatas flawlessly exemplify his maturity and his capacities both as a musician and as a composer. In its harmonic complexity and in the extreme technical intricacy of the violin part the collection royally surpasses the three previous books. The music of the Fourth Book is very emotional, showing a pronounced expressive subjectivity, almost in a Romantic sense, incorporating surprising twists in the melodic line, sudden modulations and broken cadences. The mood in the slow movements seems on occasion nearly impenetrable and anticipates at times the expressive ambiance of nineteenth-century repertoire. This style of writing might be rooted in Leclair's character, which was described by his contemporaries as difficult, reserved, evasive of companionship and almost misanthropic. The compositions testify to a superior level of musicianship and lead one to believe that Leclair worked on them in several stages: between the first announcement of the Fourth Book in the Mercure de France and the actual publication of the pieces six years passed, during which Leclair lived in Amsterdam and The Hague. In this period, he had frequent contact with the Italian violinist Pietro Locatelli and certainly took advantage of the breathtaking technique of this virtuoso. The French style, which so evidently dominated the First Book of Sonatas, is completely dissolved in the Italianate writing of this compilation, even in the dance movements. Like no other composer, Leclair imposed the Italian style in France. He was the first to blend the great art of the Italian violin virtuosi (with models such as Corelli's sonatas or Vivaldi's concertos) with the French tradition. Despite strong opposition from aesthetic purists such as Hubert Le Blanc (Défense de la basse de viole), he revolutionized French musical tastes with his distinctive approach and laid the foundations for the French violin school, represented and developed by musicians such as Guillemain, Mondonville, Gaviniès, Rode and Kreutzer in the course of the eighteenth century.
LUIS OTAVIO SANTOS was born in Brazil. He studied the baroque violin with Sigiswald Kuijken at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague and was awarded a Master's degree with the highest honours. Since 1992 he has been one of the principal members of La Petite Bande, performing with the group both as a soloist and as the lead violinist. He has made several CD recordings and performed in concert tours throughout Europe, Japan, China and Latin America. He is often invited to lead ensembles such as the Ricercar Consort, Il Fondamento and the Nederlandse Bachvereniging. From 1997 to 2001 he taught the baroque violin at the music school in Fiesole, Italy. Since 1998, he has been the assistant of Sigiswald Kuijken at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels, Belgium. He is the Artistic Director of the annual Festival Internacional de Musica Colonial Brasileira e Musica Antiga de Juiz de Fora, an event honoured by the Brazilian Ministry of Culture for its crucial contribution to Brazilian cultural development. Together with Pieter-Jan Belder he recorded the complete Bach sonatas for violin and harpsichord for the Dutch label Brilliant Classics.
Born in Brazil, ALESSANDRO SANTORO took a Master's degree in piano performance at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. He recorded Claudio Santoro's First Piano Concerto with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Samara. He continued his education by studying the harpsichord with Jacques Ogg at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, where he obtained a further Master's degree. He performs in Europe and Brazil as a member of ensembles such as La Petite Bande, The Orchestra of the 18th Century, La Sfera Armoniosa and Den Haag Baroque Orchestra. In 2000 he conducted The Symphony Orchestra of Brasilia in a program featuring the complete Brandenburg Concertos. He is a member of the teaching staff of the International Summer Course in Brasilia and of the Festival Internacional de Musica Colonial Brasileira e Musica Antiga de Juiz de Fora. He is a guest teacher of basso continuo and ensemble coaching at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague.
RICARDO RODRIGUEZ MIRANDA was born in Venezuela. He studied the piano and the violoncello in Caracas, where he was also a member of La Camerata de Caracas. He was awarded a scholarship from the Venezuelan government to study the viol with Wieland Kuijken at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague and took part in several master-classes with Jordi Savall during the same period. He obtained both a teaching and a solo performance diploma and, in addition to his activities as a performer, went on to study musicology at the University of Utrecht.