Simon Le Duc, The Elder, was a composer, violinist and publisher born in Paris on 15 January 1742. His teacher, Pierre Gaviniès (1728-1800), made an excellent violinist of him, which allowed him to make his debut at the Concert spirituel in 1759 as a second violin. He was promoted to first violin in 1763, the year when Leopold Mozart had heard him play and praised him in his travel diaries. Le Duc co-directed this institution alongside François-Joseph Gossec and Gaviniès from 1773 until his death. Le Concert spirituel became under their leadership one of the most brilliant European ensembles. Le Duc was one of the best symphonic composers of his time. A renowned teacher, he taught his own brother Pierre, whom he regarded as more gifted than himself. He was much loved by his fellow musicians for his modesty and generosity, and his death on 22 January 1777 was a sad loss for them. A mass by Gossec was played by the Concert spirituel on the occasion of a funeral service in his memory, two months after his death.
Simon Le Duc died prematurely at the age of 35, leaving a rather limited instrumental music repertoire, but one of high quality. Besides 3 symphonies, 3 orchestral trios, concertos and a concert symphony, he wrote a good deal of chamber music, such as the Sonates pour le violon, accompagnées d’un alto, d’une basse et d’un clavecin (op. 1, 1768) and several collections of Trios pour deux violons et basse (1768, 1771). His orchestral works, especially the symphonies, were among the most reissued of the French repertoire of that time. The musical elegance of his 3 violin concertos is marked by a great harmonic finesse combined with the virtuosity of the instrument. The writing here is skilful and very idiomatic. The frequent use of chromaticism and a taste for unusual keys reveal a style approaching the budding romanticism of the time.
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