|About this Recording
8.572275 - SARASATE, P. de: Violin and Orchestra Music, Vol. 3 (Tianwa Yang, Navarre Symphony, Martinez-Izquierdo)
Pablo Sarasate (1844–1908)
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. Among these one of the best known is his Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), together with his Spanish Dances. Following the common practice of his time, he also wrote concert fantasies based on themes from popular operas of the day, of which the best known remains his Carmen Fantasy.
Fantasies on Die Zauberflöte and Faust
As he grew to maturity, Sarasate played many works by Mozart. His final composition is the Concert Fantasy on Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Op. 54, a masterpiece of the genre. While it is pure Sarasate in violinistic writing, the Spaniard took note of his predecessors Paganini and H.W. Ernst. Particularly remarkable are the passages in tenths; Sarasate’s hand may not have been very big, but it certainly was flexible.
Navarra, Op. 33, for two violins, was one of Sarasate’s most frequently played pieces. He played it on many occasions with Enrique Fernandez-Arbos, a performer who wrote some pieces especially for his fellow-countryman. Navarra is a jota. Notable is the imitation of the flute-like harmonics and the regional drumming. The change in tempo in the middle section would have been sung by a male singer, and perhaps Sarasate had Julian Gayarre, his Navarese compatriot, in mind.
Muiñeiras, Op. 33, has a naive charm. Its most notable features are the bagpipe-like effects so characteristic of Northwest Spain, the plaintive middle section, and a finale which brings to mind Caprice basque, Op. 24. This unique piece was published in 1883. Quite coincidentally, a manuscript came to my attention recently. It dates from Sarasate’s first concert tour of the Americas, and is autographed “New York 26-2-1872”. With very few differences it is the identical piece.
Gounod’s great tragic opera Faust seemed to interest Sarasate. It is the only opera which inspired him to write not one but two fantasies. This version is Op. 13, and is completely different from the earlier one, dated 1863. The listener will recognize Le Veau d’or, the Garden Scene, and the Valse finale, which is a miracle of lightness and brilliance. Le Veau d’or is another thing. Here, Mephistopheles is a lightweight character. This brings to mind what George Bernard Shaw said of Edouard de Reszke’s characterization of Mephistopheles: “The most timid child would climb up on his knee and demand to be shown how a watch opens when blown on!”
The Barcarolle vénitienne, (Gondoliéra veneziana), Op. 46, is dedicated to Sarasate’s important German colleague and frequent piano accompanist, Otto Neitzel. This piece is simply bewitching. It conjures up a nocturnal dry-point etching by another of Sarasate’s friends, James McNeill Whistler. Imagine, if you will, the Venice canals enshrouded in fog. All is mysterious twilight. A gondolier‘s voice is heard in the distance, but you do not know from where it comes. Close your eyes; envision a musical Whistler nocturnal scene. Tears will come to your eyes.
In 1904 Sarasate recorded some nine discs for the G&T Company. Caprice Jota, from the Introduction and Caprice-Jota, Op. 41, was among them. His fleet fingers and enchanting tone are readily apparent. A barcarolle-like first section, delightful in its melodiousness, sets the stage with great anticipation for the Jota, and what a Jota this one is! All the array of Sarasate’s arsenal is brought to the utmost of effect. Here is proof positive why Sarasate was one of the greatest of all violinists, and a composer for the ages.
Tianwa Yang offers her thanks to the Sarasate Museum and Pamplona Town Council for permitting her to play on Pablo de Sarasate’s violin, the Jean Baptiste Vuillaume of 1842. The Magic Flute Fantasy and the 1st violin part of Navarra for two Violins is recorded on Sarasate’s Vuillaume; the 2nd violin part of Navarra is recorded on the Vuillaume she usually plays. It is a tremendous honour to combine performances on both instruments for this recording.
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