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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

French Violin Gems that Run the Quality Gamut.

Jean Baptiste Charles DANCLA (1817-1907)
Petite École de la mélodie, Op. 123 [29:33]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Sonata No. 1 in d minor for violin and piano, Op. 75 [22:24]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Meditation from Thaïs [5:00]

Guido Rimonda (violin)
Cristina Canziani (piano)

Recorded at Teatro Civico, Vercelli, Italy; 6-7 August, 2007.

CHANDOS CHAN 10510 [57:20]

Italian musicians Guido Rimonda and Cristina Canziani take a little vacation in France to bring us this rather intimate and delightful hour of music that ranges from salon bonbons to a fairly serious work to a rather overcooked favorite. Although the music spans the quality scale from 1-10, there is still much to enjoy in this recital that is very long on lovely tunes.

Jean Baptiste Charles Dancla was one of the last of the school of French violin playing that was started some decades earlier by Giovanni Batista Viotti. It was a school that emphasized lyricism over substance and virtuosity over depth. These twelve musical candies are rather the epitome of salon music; pretty and not particularly complicated, meant to entertain. In addition to their blatant tunefulness, there is also a didactic element at play, as the composer explores various technical challenges for the violinist in each movement. The piano alas is left to play simple accompaniments that range from languid arpeggios to jaunty boom-chucks.

Saint-Saëns’ first of two violin sonatas is his most popular work in the genre. At times rhapsodic and at others achingly lyrical, this is a work that stands easily beside similar works by Cesar Franck and Gabriel Fauré in its scope and quality. Saint-Saëns is a composer who is often passed over except for a few major popular pieces. It’s a joy to hear some chamber music from a composer whose gifts are far too underrated by today’s listeners and performers.

Guido Rimonda is a violinist with a rich amber tone and plenty of technical prowesses. He is most certainly of a romantic bent, but never goes overboard, even in the easily overwrought Dancla pieces. He performs with conviction and has a good sense of form, pace and balance. He particularly shines in the Saint-Saëns, where he delivers a performance that is at times ethereal and at others dark hued and passionate. Ms. Canziani finally gets an opportunity to show her stuff here, and she makes her way around the keyboard with ease and flair.

The program is rounded out with the ever popular Massenet Meditation, which is played lovingly and with great expression.

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