Rameau, Leclair, & Locatelli

Date & Time

Friday, February 16, 2024 7:30 pm
Sunday, February 18, 2024 2:30 pm


Alana Youssefian  violin
Geoffrey McDonald  conductor


Rameau  Suite from Les Indes Galantes
Violin Concerto, Op. 10 No. 6 in G minor
Sinfonia funebre in F minor
  Violin Concerto in D major, “Il grosso mogul”, RV 208

Revel in the charm and splendor of Versailles, Vienna, Venice, and more in this dazzling performance with violinist Alana Youssefian and conductor Geoffrey McDonald. Two captivating violin concertos, each the height of virtuosic baroque expression, contrasted by the haunting lament of Locatelli’s Sinfonia funebre and Rameau’s classic Les Indes Galantes.

Read more in the program notes below.

PROGRAM NOTES: February 16 & 18, 2024

Jean-Marie LeClair (1697-1764)

Violin Concerto in g minor, Op. 10 No. 6
Allegro ma poco
Andante. Aria grazioso

If the works of Vivaldi stand as emblems of what was most emphatically Italian in the music of the Baroque, an unambiguously French style is harder to find. For just as Catherine de’ Medici had brought Italian chefs and pastry-cooks with her from Florence when she became Queen of France in the 16th century, with lasting effect on the French kitchen, so her compatriot Giovanni Battista Lulli, moving in 1646 to Paris (where he became Jean-Baptiste Lully), established Italian taste as an important influence on French musical life. Another century on, the Mercure de France would praise Jean-Marie Leclair for his ability “to play both French and Italian music equally well.”

This double thread runs indelibly through both the circumstances of Leclair’s career and the manner and content of his own music. Aside from his musical talents, he was, like Lully, also an accomplished dancer in the French manner. In 1722, however, he chose to study not with a French master but with Giovanni Battista Somis, who had himself studied with the founder of Italian violin music, Arcangelo Corelli. In his own music, most of it contained in two sets of violin concertos and several volumes of sonatas, Leclair moreover succeeded in marrying French dance-rhythms with Italian virtuosity and melodic fantasy: a fine instance of the goûts-réünis (“reunited tastes”) celebrated in François Couperin’s great chamber-music collection published in 1724.

Leclair’s Opus 10 was published in 1745 and dedicated to the Spanish Prince Don Philippe. The sixth and last concerto in the set characteristically indulges its Italianate virtuoso traits (including an effective use of double stopping) mostly in the expansive outer movements, while the central Aria gratioso takes the form of a gracious “menuet en rondeau” in the French manner. Traditional his style may be, but this exhilarating music also demonstrates the strong individuality that led an early commentator to call Leclair “the first who, without imitating anything, created beautiful things, new things, that he could call his own.”

Bernard Jacobson (2017-2018)

Pietro Antonio Locatelli (1695-1764)

Sinfonia Funèbre, in F minor

Alla breve ma moderato
Non presto

La Consolazione: Andante

Born in Bergamo, northern Italy, Locatelli spent his mature career in Amsterdam. After learning to play the violin, he moved to Rome in 1711, to refine his violin-playing skills under the tutelage of musicians associated with Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713). During the 12 years that he spent in Rome, Locatelli’s first publication appeared (in Amsterdam, in 1721) – a set of 12 Concerti Grossi for strings (Opus 1).

The F minor Sinfonia is scored for strings and harpsichord, and is a predominantly dark work, lacking the virtuosity of the violin concertos just mentioned. It bears the descriptor “Composta per le esequie della sua Donna che si celebrarono in Roma”, indicating that it was written for the obsequies of a lady in Rome. The wording “sua Donna” has been interpreted as evidence that Locatelli’s wife was the deceased party. The year when the Sinfonia was written appears to be unknown, and its ascription to Locatelli has been questioned, although a narrative accompanying an edition of the work dating from 1999 makes a compelling case for Locatelli’s authorship. Three of the five movements of the Sinfonia Funebre are in F minor. The first and third movements are slow, and the second is a relatively fast-moving fugue. F major is the main key of the “consoling” last movement. The principal key of the work, F minor, is relatively uncommon as the main tonality of orchestral works in the 18th century. During the 20th century, the musicologist Jan LaRue drew up an inventory of symphonies written between around 1720 and 1810, grouping the works by their principal key. The total number of such works (16,558) includes 71 in F minor, 0.4% of the total. Composers have shown remarkable consistency in their use of F minor as a vehicle for strong “negative” emotion – a feature of works in this key by Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms.

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Violin Concerto in D Major (RV 208), Il Grosso Mogul
Grave – Recitativo

Vivaldi’s appointment in 1703, as Maestro di Violino at the Venetian Ospedale della Pietà, provided an opportunity to write music, notably concertos, for talented performers in this orphanage for girls and young women. Of Vivaldi’s roughly 500 concertos, approximately 220 are for solo violin.

The Grosso Mogul (“Great Moghul”) concerto is believed to date from around 1710. Vivaldi was the principal architect of the late Baroque concerto for one solo instrument and orchestra – a 3-movement format comprising two fast outer movements flanking a slower middle movement.

The first movement of the Grosso Mogul concerto begins with a thematic complex comprising an incisive series of repeated notes followed by major-key scales and chords, a falling 3-note figure with minor-key inflections, and further scales to conclude this opening statement. In line with the ritornello principle outlined above, various elements of this thematic complex reappear throughout the movement in various keys, separated by episodes in which the soloist dominates. In the first episode, the soloist launches into a flamboyant, upwardly moving sequence of double stops across two strings of the violin. After an abbreviated return of the ritornello, the next episode for the soloist involves a series of rising and falling scales, lacking the aggressiveness of the previous episode. Elements of the ritornello are revisited in E minor, after which some wistful, “yearning” harmonies supervene. A later episode involves the soloist again playing fast consecutive double stops on two adjacent strings. After a cadenza, a précis of the ritornello, consisting of short rising scales, rounds off the movement.

In the second movement, the scoring comprises the solo violin and basso continuo. This rhapsodic movement in B minor sounds like an improvisation, though is actually notated precisely. The violin part swoops up and down, creating an impression of spontaneity that is more apparent than real. The dance-like third movement starts with a ritornello typified by alternating rising and falling arpeggios, followed by a lyrical theme played by the soloist, which suggests an operatic aria. Later in the movement, there is a cadenza, after which a reference to the arpeggios of the ritornello theme concludes the work.

During his years as organist and concertmaster at the court in Weimar (1708-1717), J. S. Bach made solo organ transcriptions of 3 concertos by Vivaldi. These concertos include the Grosso Mogul; in Bach’s organ version (BWV 594), this is transposed to C major.

Martin Heyworth (2024)

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)

Suite from “Les Indes galantes”
Minuet I & II
Danse de Sauvage

Jean-Phlippe Rameau’s opera “Les Indes galantes”, which premiered in 1735, reflects a shift from the popular epic mythological stories to plots set in fantastical albeit, real-world locations. Written as an opéra-ballet, it is comprised of four separate stories, each in an act or entrée, that are unified by love stories set in faraway countries such as Turkey, Peru, Persia, and North America. For 18th century audiences, the opera was fraught with difficulties as the plot was too convoluted, and Rameau’s inventive harmonies were too jarring. Fast forward two hundred years, Rameau’s superbly lively, brilliantly scored, harmonically and rhythmically varied music is quite approachable. While the complete score is rarely produced, selections are most often heard in the form of orchestral suites comprised of the overture, dances, ballets, and entr’acte found throughout the opera. The complexity of the music, its richness of details, and its unexpected twists and turns are captivating.

In the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia’s performance, the arrangement was written by conductor, Geoffrey McDonald for these performances. The five movements are comprised of dances from the famous “Les Sauvage”, the fourth and most recognized of the four entrées. The “Danse de Sauvage” was originally adapted from Rameau’s earlier harpsichord piece and is the most well-known piece from the opera. The Chaconne that concludes the program is a triple-time dance using variation technique and scored with great variety and richness for the full resources of the orchestra.

Anne Hagan (2024)


Perelman Theater
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
300 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19102


90 Minutes