Notes and Editorial Reviews
Petite école de la mélodie.
Violin Sonata No. 1.
Guido Rimonda (vn); Cristina Canziani (pn)
CHANDOS 10510 (57:20)
The booklet notes to Guido Rimonda and Cristina Canziani’s recital of pieces by Jean Baptiste Charles Dancla, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Jules Massenet focus
on passages from Marcel Proust about the Verdurin salon, relating how such music might have fit into the fictional setting and speculating, for example, which passage might have actually inspired Proust’s remarks about a certain motive from the Sonata. (Might it be the second theme of the opening movement, as Andrea Malnati’s notes suggest, or alternatively, the redolent, yearning second theme of the Adagio?) Mela Tenenbaum and Yosif Feigelson played a similar type of recital, based on what might have been played in the Captain’s cabin in scenes described by Patrick O’Brian (“Musical Evenings in the Captain’s Cabin,” ESS.A.Y 1080, 28:6). But, perhaps even more so than in that case, the program in Chandos’s recital deserves to stand on its own, without relying for its cohesion on any extramusical associations.
School of Mechanism
may be his most frequently encountered book of studies nowadays (he composed more than 130 works for violin, in addition to 17 quartets and other assorted chamber works), the 12 pieces of his
Petite école de la mélodie
seem focused upon stylistic rather than technical development (two encyclopedias lists Dancla’s op. 123 as his Suite No. 3 for Violin and Piano, but catalogs of music in print suggest the one given on the jewel case as the right one). The set opens with a Romance, an ingratiating, simple melody that could double as a study in style and in tone production and as a recital piece for advanced beginners. The character pieces proceed with a Valse, a Rêverie, a jaunty Moderato e risoluto, a Ballade, an infectious Polka, Petit air varié, an Andante cantabile, a Romanza, Barcarole, Mazurka, and a concluding elegant Introduction e rondo. These—even the Air varié—make only the most modest demands on the violinist (and, in this case, on his 1721 Jean-Marie Leclair Stradivari), on the pianist, and on the listener, providing a sort of pleasure that requires neither analysis nor even particularly focused attention. Still, violin aficionados and historians will welcome the attempt to bring a wider range of repertoire to their attention than has been available on recordings for the last 100-odd years (not to mention before).
Rimonda and Canziani play Saint-Saëns’s popular Sonata impetuously and, occasionally, aggressively, making it sound very different in character from the brighter, more elegant readings of Heifetz, Dong Suk Kang (Naxos 8.550276, reviewed by David K. Nelson in 15: 5), and, more recently Antje Weithaas and Silke Avenhaus (Cavi-Music 8553123, 32:4). The Scherzo, similarly, doesn’t seem as preternaturally crisp here as Heifetz has made some of us expect it to be, and its lyrical second theme hardly takes off—and the same is true of the finale, the main theme of which others, like Heifetz, have made crackle with energy. (In 26:3, I noted that Midori, Sony 89699, though greased lightning, dug less deeply into the string in the spiccatos than did Heifetz, Gil Shaham—on Deutsche Grammophon 429 729, 15:1—or Isabelle van Keulen, Koch 6416, 20:5; there’s more than one way to skin a cat, or make this finale sparkle.) Still, the subsidiary theme finally does achieve a heady lift.
The duo’s serene reading of Massenet’s “Méditation” breathes an air of transcendent serenity appropriate to its origin in the opera, and offers some of the most subtle and ingratiating playing in the entire recital. Throughout, Rimonda produces a sumptuous tone, and the engineers have balanced the congenial duo at just the right distance to capture their abundant nuances and to filter out extraneous noise. On the whole, while those seeking versions of the Sonata—the recital’s major work—should easily find desirable alternatives, the combination of Dancla’s unfamiliar pieces and the sensitive version of the “Méditation” may lend Chandos’s program exceptional interest to violinists, students, and collectors. Warmly recommended to them.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Thaïs: Meditation by Jules Massenet
Cristina Canziani (Piano),
Guido Rimonda (Violin)
Written: 1894; France
Venue: Teatro Civico, Vercelli, Italy
Length: 5 Minutes 2 Secs.
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