About this Recording
8.557767 - SARASATE, P. de: Violin and Piano Music, Vol. 1 (Tianwa Yang, Hadulla)
English  German 

Pablo Sarasate (1844-1908)
Spanish Dances


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. 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.

The great violinist Carl Flesch described Sarasate's music as 'like a fresh, rosy-cheeked peasant girl'. It is music of infinite charm and elegance. There is also the element of passion and virtuosity, and at times, great imagination. As a composer, Sarasate was prolific. His works can be divided into five general groups. The first group contains compositions in the folk idiom, the second consists of opera fantasies, the third group are 'original' compositions and the fourth group are some excellent transcriptions, with the last group consisting of a few cadenzas to violin concertos.

This first album of Sarasate compositions includes eleven works definitely in the Spanish folk idiom, and one work which hints at its Spanish heritage.

[Track 1] Taking the pieces in performance order, we know that the Habanera, Op. 21, No. 2, is based on the aria 'De la patria del cacao, del chocolate y del café' (From the country of cocoa, chocolate and coffee) from a popular Spanish operetta, the zarzuela La Gallina Ciega (The Blind Hen) by Fernando Caballero. Sarasate's friend Lalo used the same theme in his cello concerto.

[2] The Playera, Op. 23, No. 1, is an example of the canto hondo, a passionate gypsy song from Southern Spain, and very flamenco in its passion.

[3] Malagueña, Op. 21, No. 1, is probably an original work. The middle section demonstrates Sarasate's guitar-like left hand pizzicato.

[4] Capricho Vasco (Basque Caprice), Op. 24, uses several motifs of the Basque zortzico, a dance in 5/8 rhythm. Two of these are 'Desde que nace el dia' (From Break of Day), and 'Tres Señoritas de San Sebastián' (Three Girls from San Sebastián).

[5] Romanza Andaluza, Op. 22, No. 1, is an original work in Andalucian style.

[6] Jota Navarra, Op. 22, No. 2, contains quotations from a zarzuela by Ondrid and also the jota ¡Viva Navarra! by Joaquín Larregla.

[7] Serenata Andaluza, Op. 28, is certainly the most virtuoso of all the compositions of Sarasate. Here he comes very close to Paganini. This work combines the brilliant guitar-like figures of the flamenco with the passion of the canto hondo.

[8] Jota Aragonesa, Op. 27, originates in a song to freedom by the Navarrese composer Apolinar Brull.

[9] Balada, Op. 31, is a haunting piece, and one of Sarasate's most interesting. It hints at many types of Spanish music, but it cannot be called a Spanish dance. There are so many “hidden faces” that it is impossible properly to describe this work. It includes a number of fascinating elements: the bewitching Celtic, the Navarrese virtuosity, the Andalucian languor, Sarasate's famous flying staccato, and the uncharacteristic quiet ending.

[10] Zapateado, Op. 23, No. 2, is an original Spanish dance.

[11] Spanish Dance No. 7 is more like a transcription than an original work. It consists almost entirely of the song by Fermin Maria Alvarez known as 'La Partida' (The Parting). The recording of the song by Enrico Caruso (Naxos 8.110726 and 8.110752) makes an interesting comparison.

[12] The final selection is the second Habanera of the set of two songs, Op. 26, No. 2. The first is similar to the song 'Yo me voy a Puerto Rico en un cascarón de nuez' (I am going off to Puerto Rico in a walnut-shell). The second is 'Nena mia' (My Baby) by Fernandez Caballero.

Joseph Gold and Keith Anderson


Close the window