Who murdered Jean-Marie Leclair?

Ahead of our 13 July concert in York, here’s a little intrigue around the death of composer Jean-Marie Leclair…

The funeral of Jean-Marie Leclair, one of the most famous of France’s violinists and composers, took place on 25th October 1764. He had been killed in front of his house two days earlier, stabbed three times in the back.  So who had committed this horrible crime?

Leclair had the reputation of a nice guy but a more complex side of his character was revealed by a few of his close friends.

Leclair started out as a dancer and learned the violin on the side., with his composing career coming later. It was as dancer and master of the ballet at Turin Opera than he got his first contract in 1722. Always as passionate about the violin as he was of dance, Leclair published his first set of violin sonatas in Paris in 1723.

With his multiple skills, Leclair attracted the attention of some big luminaries of the time including King Louis XV himself.

After working for great personalities and famous ensembles, this famous but mysterious virtuoso met with a tragic end to his life; he was murdered just in front of his house after returning back home from an evening out, and was found the following morning, lying in a pool of blood.

That morning, 23rd October 1764, the police quickly pinpointed three different suspects.

Suspect No. 1: The gardener

The police’s first suspect was Jacques Paysant. This humble man merely found the body of his employer when he arrived to work.

Suspect No.2: The nephew

The violinist Francois-Guillaume Vial was the son of Leclair’s sister Francoise. The young man aspired to have a great career but was always disappointed not to receive the same success as his uncle. Vial blamed Leclair for not supporting him enough and his jealousy often led to arguments with Leclair.

Suspect No.3: The ex-wife

Leclair’s first wife died without leaving him any children. So he got married for a second time, to  Louise Roussel. However, in 1758, as their relationship worsened, the couple eventually got divorced.

Louise moved into the house of a Monsieur Chavagnac, on Rue du Four-Saint-Germain. Despite being asked to move into the house of his patron, the Duke of Gramont, Leclair decided to live in a dark and small house close to Saint-Martin’s canal – where he was killed.

At the time of the murder, his ex-wife had various financial problems and on the event of Leclair’s death was able to sell his house, belongings, and published some of his work.

Unfortunately, despite all these motives, the police did not have enough evidence to solve the case, and it  remains unsolved to this day.

Cyndie Demeocq, Communications Trainee

Hear the music of Jean-Marie Leclair as part of our concert on Sunday 13 July at the National Centre for Early Music.

References:

Leclair biography by Thomas Leconte (French)
Leclair biography by David C F Wright (English)