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ClassicsOnline Home » SARASATE, P. de: Violin and Orchestra Music, Vol. 4 (Tianwa Yang, Navarre Symphony, Martinez-Izquierdo)
This volume concludes Tianwa Yang’s internationally acclaimed series of recordings of Pablo de Sarasate’s works for violin and orchestra. This stunning programme includes the popular Introduction et Tarantelle and two delightful jotas. Sarasate’s scintillating flying staccato technique is heard in the Fantaisie on Weber’s ‘Der Freischütz’, while Le Rêve is a remarkable work in every way. “Yang is splendidly equipped as a Sarasate violinist, with her clear tone, pure intonation, impressive dexterity and light touch…startlingly beautiful.” (Gramophone on Volume 3, 8.572275)
Pablo Sarasate (1844–1908)
Music for Violin and Orchestra • 4
Pablo Sarasate was born in Pamplona in 1844, the son of a military bandmaster. After study in Madrid with Manuel Rodríguez Sáez, a pupil of Jules Armingaud, the leader of the quartet of which Edouard Lalo was a member, he entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of twelve, with the aid of a scholarship from Queen Isabella and the Province of Navarre. Here he became a pupil of Jean-Delphin Alard and also embarked on the study of composition. He won first prize for violin in 1857 and the following year for solfège, and in 1859 for harmony as a pupil of Henri Reber. By the age of fifteen, however, Sarasate had launched himself on a concert career, at first winning a reputation in Spain and France, before more extended tours to North and South America and throughout the rest of Europe. Composers who wrote for him included Saint-Saëns, Bruch, Lalo, Wieniawski and Dvořák, and he remained distinguished for the purity and beauty of his tone, perfection of technique and musical command. He refused, however, to play Brahms’s Violin Concerto, claiming that the only proper melody in the work was given to the oboe. His playing was in contrast to that of his older contemporary Joseph Joachim, who represented a more characteristically German attitude to performance. For his own use Sarasate wrote a number of works for violin and piano or violin and orchestra, including, as might be expected, compositions based on Spanish themes and rhythms.
Introduction et Tarantelle • Fantasies on Don Giovanni and Der Freischütz • Jota de San Fermín • Jota de Pamplona • Airs écossais • Le Rêve • LʼEsprit follet
Pablo de Sarasate was the most successful violinist in history. On his death, the New York Herald estimated his bank account at two million francs. It was Wieniawski, no less, who phrased the obvious so perfectly. He declared: “Sarasate is the violinist to the whole world. He plays everywhere, his tone is both beautiful and memorable, his programmes are always fresh and popular, and audiences love his music.” In concert with what Wieniawski said, the great violinist, Ruggiero Ricci, told me that the most distinguishing characteristic of a violinist is his tone. Sarasate’s tone was pure magic. It was, along with Jascha Heifetz, the most readily identifiable tone of any violinist. In addition, Sarasate was the master of a perfect technique of both hands, which was used at the service of the music.
This final instalment of the complete works for violin and orchestra of Sarasate, begins with Introduction et Tarantelle, Op 43. Except for Zigeunerweisen, this piece is surely the most popular of his non-Spanish works. As always, it is a melding of singing melody, miraculous bowing, scintillating left-hand technique, with all this added to the Paganini-like salvos on the G string.
Jota de San Fermín, Op 36, is one of Sarasate’s weaker efforts. While it contains some felicitous melodies and the usual virtuoso violinistic bravura, it bears out a brilliant observation by the great violinist Nathan Milstein comparing the two Prokofiev violin concertos: “He wrote the First Violin Concerto because he wanted to write a violin concerto. He wrote the Second because he was a great composer.”
In his maturity, Sarasate turned increasingly to the classics. The music of Bach and Mozart was almost always performed at the beginning of his recitals. Two Mozart opera fantasies, on Don Giovanni and on The Magic Flute, illustrate the significant change of these final years. Today’s staid and overly sophisticated audiences will certainly look down on these pieces. This is unfortunate, because both fantasies are delightful, and helped educate the audiences of their day to this great music. For this reason, alone, opera fantasies were valuable.
The Fantaisie on Weber’s ‘Der Freischütz’ is an early, if mature work, based on the overture to Weber’s opera. The feature that is most notable is that the memorable horn melody of the original is realised in double stops by Sarasate. All is conceived with attention to singing in the grand manner. Sarasate had a justifiably famous, scintillating flying staccato which is heard to great effect in this work.
If Jota de San Fermín is found lacking, Jota de Pamplona, Op 50, is one of the best. The listener is amazed and delighted at every turn. Never let it be said that Sarasate lacked imagination or a gift for melody. It is curious to note that the name of the dedicatee, the famous Professor Edouard Nadaud, is misspelled on the title page.
Airs écossais, Op 34, is dedicated to Sarasate’s younger colleague Eugène Ysaÿe. It has, as one would expect, bagpipe imitations and uses of the Scottish snap. Perhaps Sarasate wanted to demonstrate to Bruch, with his Scottish Fantasy and Sir Alexander Mackenzie with his Pibroch Suite, that he could not be outdone.
Le Rêve, Op 53, is a remarkable piece in every way, of a calibre sufficient to assure Sarasate a place in the pantheon of the greatest composers.
L’Esprit follet, Op 48, is to violin music what Houdini was to magic. Sarasate demonstrates will-ofthe- wisp fingering befitting the title and inimitable feats of bowing.
Sarasate’s compositions for violin and orchestra, recorded in the present series, must help to recall earlier days when violinist-composers were a feature of concert life. Among these Sarasate reigned supreme, a great violinist and a composer of uncommon quality, an incandescent musical personality, and a genius for the ages.
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