Antonio BAZZINI (1818-1897)
Works for violin and piano
Violin Sonata in E minor Op.55 (1867) [22:13]
Novellette Op.54 (1867) [10:27]
Three Morceaux Op.53 (1867) [16:26]
Three Morceaux Op.46 (1865) [18:02]
Luigi Alberto Bianchi (violin)
Aldo Orvieto (piano)
rec. April 1999, Dynamic Studios, Genoa
DYNAMIC DM8018 [67:14]
These performances were recorded back in 1999 but have been re-released by Dynamic. They’re absolutely charming, and demonstrate a rapport between Bianchi and Orvieto that is a joy to hear. They’re also stylistically apt performances and allow Bianchi the full resources of a master orator at full flow. Perhaps the better, if more expected analogy, is with a singer because Bazzini, who is best remembered now as a composer for the violin, wrote a considerable amount of music in other forms and had indeed written much choral music.
It’s true that, notwithstanding Robert Schumann’s admiration for Bazzini when the Italian performed one of his Violin Concertos in Leipzig, not all the music is strictly from the top drawer. But that’s not to impugn it, much less the marvellously communicative performers, and at its best it has a sensual attraction and a salon refinement that is a distinct cut-above.
The Sonata was written in 1867. It has a strong romantic pull, indeed something of a Schumannesque one in fact - Bazzini may be thought representatively Italian but he was clearly influenced by German Romanticism. There are Sturm und Drang elements at work in the fiery passagework, but plenty of expansive lyricism too, and equally stormy piano writing. How artfully in the slow movement Bianchi twists and turns his line, heightening expression through subtle finger position changes, varying his bow weight with great tact and acumen; his approach is bel canto legato and enshrines a real sense of vocalism. This is gorgeous violin playing, pure and simple. By contrast the finale is light and lissom, graced by gracious portamenti, and hugely enjoyable.
The smaller works are no less interesting, indeed their compression aids appreciation of their charm. The second of the Op.54 Novellette is called La Nymphe des bois and its salon sentiment is strong but not at all cloying. There’s wistful sentiment in the first of the Op.53 Morceaux, and this is conveyed tonally by Bianchi with exquisite perception. By contrast the last of the three is a coquettish one, aided no end by the dapper exchanges between Bianchi and Orvieto. The central morceaux of the Op.46 set, called Séparation, is an Andante appassionata that evokes Bazzini’s contemporary Raff in its double stopping, lyric gift and strong cadential passage. Inquiétude is a sweet envoi.
Bazzini’s gifts were strong, but not necessarily ‘deep’, if that’s the criterion you require. Bruckner he isn’t. His qualities included charm, lovely tunes, drama and a real gift for atmosphere. Add a good recording, and gorgeous performances, and you have a delightful programme.
Jonathan Woolf 

Absolutely charming … a rapport that is a joy to hear.