The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Guido Rimonda (violin) Cristina Canziani (piano)
Composer: Dancla, Saint-Saëns, Massenet

Listening even blindfolded you would immediately identify Guido Rimonda as a player in the Italian tradition. His lithe, relatively lightweight, cantabile, seamlessly pure sound, sustained by a fast, narrow vibrato is straight out of the Accardo–Michelucci–Carmignola copybook. Although he is probably best known as a passionate supporter and advocate of Viotti’s distinctive brand of high-tensile virtuosity, here Rimonda turns his hand to French music. Well, at least in name, as Dancla’s Petite école − a set of twelve technically undemanding plaisantries − turns out to be far closer to Giuliani in style than to either of his composing compatriots on this disc, perhaps not altogether surprisingly as Dancla’s main teacher, Pierre Baillot, was a star pupil of Viotti. They may not be the most memorable pieces of their kind ever composed, but the beguiling simplicity of Rimonda’s approach ensures that they possess a gentle radiance that is perfectly attuned to their delicate sound world. So, too, Massenet’s ubiquitous Méditation, which here emerges as a gently stirred repost to Anne-Sophie Mutter’s emotionally shaken tear-jerker for EMI.

The main work is indisputably the Saint-Saëns D minor Sonata, a great favourite of Heifetz, whose classic RCA account possesses a molten intensity like no other recording. That said, by emphasising the work’s Mendelssohnian plaintiveness rather than its Brahmsian passion, Rimonda and Cristina Canziani uncover a vein of gentle nostalgia (particularly in the slow movement) that Heifetz, for all his phenomenal brilliance, rather lacks. The recording possesses a pleasing, warm glow, although the piano image is a shade diffuse.