The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Laurent Albrecht Breuninger (violin) Anna Zassimova (piano)
Composer: Catoire

Georgy Catoire was Russia’s answer to the young Gabriel Fauré – a composer of exquisite taste rarely given to wearing his heart on his sleeve, yet whose work possesses a tenderness and rapture that continually hints at barely suppressed emotions surging away below the music’s surface.

Back in 2008 Avie released a similar programme to this new CPO disc, but with Ravel’s Habanera and Tzigane instead of Catoire’s Romanze, in fine accounts from Hervig and Berndt Zack that flesh out the music’s expressive contours with a beguiling virtuoso brilliance. That said, for performances that exude delectable French perfume in every bar with aromatic subtlety, Laurent Albrecht Breuninger, ravishingly accompanied by Anna Zassimova, cries out to be heard

Breuninger possesses a jewelled, relatively lightweight sound, inflected by a narrow, medium-paced vibrato reminiscent of Christian Ferras. Every now and then, as in the finale of the First Sonata (try 1:30 minutes onwards) Breuninger captures the moment with such poetic intensity that it is impossible to imagine it better played. The more interpretatively challenging and introspective the music becomes, as witness the glorious 22-minute Poème, the more spellbinding this exceptional team becomes. The recording balances the piano discreetly behind the violin, enhancing the sultry atmosphere of the performances.