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ClassicsOnline Home » SARASATE, P. de: Violin and Piano Music, Vol. 4 - Transcriptions (Tianwa Yang, Hadulla)
The finale to this critically acclaimed four-disc series contains some of Sarasate’s greatest—and also some of his rarest—transcriptions and arrangements, some of which have been in the repertoire of violinists since they were published. They include a delectable Chopin sequence, arrangements inspired by the music of French Baroque violinists, an early and beautifully constructed Souvenirs de Faust based on Gounod, and Sarasate’s own favourite concert piece, Raff’s La fée d’amour. “Yang throws off merciless chains of double stops and finger-crippling arabesques with scintillating aplomb…simply inimitable…Bravo!” (BBC Music Magazine on Volume 3, href="http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/product.aspx?pid=8.570893">8.570893)
Pablo Sarasate (1844–1908)
Music for Violin and Piano • 4
The great Spanish violinist 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, as well as transcriptions for his own concert use.
Transcriptions of works by Moszkowski, Chopin, Guignon, Mondonville, Leclair, Handel, Senaillé, Bach and Raff • Souvenirs de Faust
Pablo de Sarasate was the most successful violinist in history. No instrumentalist, not even Paganini, commanded higher fees. Volume 4 of the complete works of Sarasate is a fitting and appropriate finale to this overview of his music. Here Sarasate is represented as a precocious child genius, a skilled transcriber, an intelligent and informed scholar, an interpreter of the classics, and a forward thinking man of his times. Many of the pieces are duly famous, albeit in different garb. Other pieces are so unknown that they are scarcely footnotes to history. There can be no doubt that Sarasate created tailor-made compositions for himself. In this regard he is no different from other composing virtuosi. Sarasate, however, differs from that multitude in that he clearly had the skill of genius.
Moritz Mozkowski was a slightly younger colleague of Sarasate, equally known for his finger facility on the piano as for the sarcastic barbs flung at him by his friends. Guitarra, Op 45, No 2, was famous in its day as an encore, and as such, recorded many times in the days of the 78rpm recording. Sarasate’s arrangement (track ) is so well adapted that it is hard to imagine Guitarra played by any instrument other than the violin.
Tracks – are devoted to transcriptions of works by Chopin. These are faithful transcriptions, apart from the transposition of Waltz No 8, originally in A flat major, and Nocturne No 8, originally in D flat major. The waltzes remained unpublished until I printed them in 1982. Tracks 5 and 6 are skilful arrangements of two of Chopin’s famous Nocturnes. The Nocturne in E flat, Op 9, No 2, was used frequently as an encore, and recorded by Sarasate in 1904. In this recording he did not play the rapid cadenza at the end. It is a bewitching recording; no violinist ever had a sound like his, and the left hand is like quicksilver.
Souvenirs de Faust (track ) from Gounod’s opera Faust is Sarasate’s first Faust Fantasy, written in 1863 when he was nineteen years old. It differs from the more famous Faust Fantasy, Op 13, in every way possible. As always, Sarasate chooses his tunes wisely, and arranges them seamlessly following the precepts of H.W. Ernst. He succeeded in writing a marvelous composition. It is, at the same time, very tuneful and very accessible technically, an admirable combination. Particularly notable is the Garden Scene, culminating in a passage of double and triple stopping.
Tracks – find Sarasate looking back to the Baroque Era. The transcription of Handel’s Largo from the opera Xerxes (track ) makes an effective encore, comparable to the faithful transcription of Bach’s Air from his Orchestral Suite in D major (track ), probably Sarasate’s favourite encore. He played the Air with piano accompaniment, and even used the original scoring for strings when playing with orchestra. A unique touch is added when the violin plays the melody two octaves higher on each repeated section. I believe that Sarasate enjoyed the juxtaposition of the booming G string of his 1724 Stradivarius violin with its flute-like E string. We find passages like this in virtually all his music.
Tracks – and  are inspired arrangements derived from the music of French Baroque violinists. Track  is an Allegro from the First Sonata by Jean-Pierre Guignon (born Giovanni Pietro Ghigone). Guignon was a notorious character. He was well known for lively episodes as a rascal and a mercenary political schemer. The last to hold the title Roy des Violons, he was forced to abdicate because his colleagues despised him so much. It is possible that Guignon was responsible for the murder of his great contemporary Jean-Marie Leclair. It should be added that Guignon might have been guilty of gross plagiarism. There is ample proof that he was not the author of compositions attributed to him. Track  is the rollicking La Chasse (The Hunt) from Sonata No 5 by the violinist and composer Jean-Joseph de Mondonville, a member, for years, of the French Chapel Royal. Jean-Marie Leclair was one of France’s most important musicians, famous in his day not only as a great violinist and composer, but also as an operatic dancer and choreographer. Leclair and Guignon were bitter rivals. The murder of the former, a true genius, remains unsolved. Sarabande and Tambourin (tracks –) were at one time frequently played. To evaluate Sarasate’s talents as an informed scholar, his arrangement of these pieces may be compared with those of his esteemed professor, Delphin Alard, and the great German violinist, Ferdinand David. Jean- Baptiste Senaillé was a member of the Twenty-Four Violins of the King, a most prestigious ensemble. He is represented by the charming Allegro from Sonata No 9 (track ).
La fée d’amour (track ) by Joachim Raff is an extraordinary piece and was certainly Sarasate’s favourite concert item, which he seems to have played at virtually every concert, either with piano or with orchestra. The nineteenth-century popularity of Raff owed much to his greatest champion, Sarasate. La fée d’amour, like much that Raff wrote, has fallen from the repertoire, and this recording may very well be the first. Sarasate played other pieces by Raff with great regularity, including the Sonatas Nos 1 and 2 and a Suite.
It is my fervent hope that these recordings will restore Pablo de Sarasate to his rightful position in the Pantheon of the world’s greatest musical figures. He deserves it.
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