Jean-Marie Leclair, also known as Jean-Marie Leclair the Elder (1697-1764) was a Baroque violinist and composer. He is considered to have founded the French violin school.
Leclair was born in Lyon on 10th May 1697. He went to Turin to study dance and the violin. In 1716, he married Marie-Rose Casthanie, a dancer, who died in about 1728. Leclair had returned to Paris in 1723, where he played at the Concert Spirituel, the main semi-public music series. His works included several sonatas for flute and basso continuo.
In 1730 Leclair married for the second time. His new wife was the engraver Louise Roussel, who prepared for printing all of his works from op.2 onward. Named ordinaire de la musique by Louis XV in 1733, Leclair resigned in 1737 after a clash with Guidon over control of the musique du Roy.
Leclair was then engaged by the Princess of Orange, a fine harpsichordist and former student of Handel, and from 1738 until 1743 served three months annually at her court, working in The Hague as a private maestro di cappella for the remainder of the year. He returned to Paris in 1743. His only opera, Scylla et Glaucus, was first performed in 1746, and has been revived in modern times. From 1740 until his death, he served the Duke of Gramont.
Leclair was renowned as a violinist and as a composer. He successfully drew upon all of Europe's national styles. Many suites, sonatas, and concertos survive along with his opera, while some vocal works, ballets, and other stage music is lost.
In 1758, after the break-up of his second marriage, Leclair purchased a small house in a dangerous Parisian neighborhood, where he was found stabbed to death on 22nd October 1764. Although the murder remains a mystery, there is a possibility that his ex-wife was behind it, her motive being financial gain, though the strongest suspicion rests on his nephew, Guillaume-François Vial.
His brothers Jean-Marie Leclair the younger (1703–77), Pierre Leclair (1709–84) and Jean-Benoît (1714-after 1759) were also musicians.
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