It's amazing what kind of sound you can get from a small stringed instrument held between the knees. It's amazing, that is, if the player is Tina Chancey--who coaxed marvels from her 18th-century replica pardessus yesterday at the Renwick Gallery.
Joining Chancey in Jean-Marie Leclair's Sonata in A Minor, Op. V, No. 7, were Robert Eisenstein on viola da gamba and James Wright at the harpsichord. It was the highlight of a program mostly of French baroque music, cozily rendered on original instruments in the gallery's rococo Grand Salon.
The Leclair sonata in four movements is a showpiece for the pardessus, a version of the standard fiddle. Chancey, her every phrase beautifully shaped, stretched the music's refined vocabulary to the limit: playing lyrically in the Largo, airily in the Allegro, darkly and almost romantically in the Adagio, and mixing all three in the Gavotte. Musicianship aside, it was technically a virtuoso performance--sensitively supported by Eisenstein and Wright.
Other works on the program--Simpson's charming Divisions on a Ground, Schenck's Sonata I, Marais' Suite in G Major, and a selection of pieces by Forqueray and one of his sons--all benefited from warm, lively interpretations, from a group intent on presenting music instead of musicology.