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Petite École de la mélodie
Jean Baptiste Charles DANCLA (1817-1907)
Petite École de la mélodie Op.123 – twelve short pieces for violin and piano [29:33]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Violin Sonata No.1 in D minor Op.75 (1885) [22:24]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Méditation from Thaďs – for violin and piano (1894)  [5:00]
Guido Rimonda (violin)
Cristina Canziani (piano)
rec. Teatro Civico, Vercelli, August 2007
CHANDOS CHAN10510 [57:20]
Experience Classicsonline

If Pierre Rode was one of the scions of the early nineteenth century French School ushered in by Viotti then Jean Baptiste, Charles Dancla was one of that century’s last great classical exponents. He’s remembered now really only by violin specialists for works rather more virtuosically inclined than the work recorded here, the twelve salon morceaux that form his Petite École de la mélodie. Certainly many fiddle players would have at least come across his Ecole du mécanisme or the Etudes brillantes, though the pieces that form the Petite École are aimed directly at much less advanced students and aim at exploring a singing, legato lyricism – they were published in three volumes by Schott but I’ve not pinpointed an actual date of composition if indeed there was one. Dancla may have written through his performing life and collated them for Schott.
Given the foregoing there is really little to be said of them other than that they are graceful salon pieces full of the kind verdant lyricism that Dancla had so clearly admired in his own model, Vieuxtemps, though I wouldn’t wish to suggest any kinship beyond that. These are didactic, pedagogic pieces after all. The first is beautifully spun, whilst No.2 is a waltz of gentle grace. The Fourth is a perky little Moderato e risoluto whilst No.5 is a wanly textured chanson. An effortlessly vocalised legato motors the Polka, whilst No.9, a Romanza, has a beguiling Raff-like character. There’s a poised Salon Mazurka (No.11) that speeds up wittily toward the end and a genial Introduction e Rondo to end. None lasts longer than three and a half minutes. They’re played with apposite sensitivity. These are all premiere recordings
The Parisian milieu of the disc is increased by virtue of Saint-Saëns’s oft-recorded First Sonata. Many will swear by the two Heifetz recordings, but I go back further to André Pascal and Isidor Philipp from 1935 as a test case performance. In the accepted modern manner however the Rimonda-Canziani duo offers a less urgent reading and are more refulgently romantic throughout. The Adagio is unaffected if sometimes a bit lateral and the French ethos doesn’t really come through; Canziani uses a lot more pedal than the great pianist Philipp did and Pascal offers many players a lesson in tart and intoxicating expressive plangency without wielding an especially big tone (he was a chamber player principally). Otherwise this is a pleasing, if small-scaled performance.
The ‘encore’ is the ubiquitous Massenet. I could have done without it and welcomed something else even if it was Fauré’s wonderful but over-recorded First Sonata. At fifty-seven minutes there was room for better programme making, especially as the Dancla is valuable to have but really ultimately inessential. I think the booklet notes might have pruned the Proust stuff and have dug out a picture of Dancla. The only picture of a composer is of Massenet and he occupies five minutes of this disc and, anyway, we all know what he looked like. Sorry to gripe but it could all have been better done.
Jonathan Woolf


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