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8.573704 - SAURET, É.: 24 Études Caprices, Vol. 1 - Nos. 1-7 (Rashidova)
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Émile Sauret (1852–1920)
24 Études-Caprices, Op. 64 – Vol. 1 (Nos. 1–7)


The world renowned violinist, composer and teacher Émile Sauret carved himself an enviable reputation during his lifetime. Born in 1852 in Dun-le-Roi in France, Sauret received his first violin instruction at the age of six from Charles Rondolet and later entered the Conservatoire de Strasbourg, where he studied with Schwederle. Soon acclaimed as a child prodigy, he gave his concerto début at the age of eight. Sauret continued his studies under the tutelage of the renowned Belgian violinist and pedagogue, Charles de Bériot and also received lessons from one of de Bériot’s most acclaimed students, Henri Vieuxtemps. He later studied composition with Salomon Jaddassohn at the Leipzig Conservatoire. Subsequently Sauret’s remarkable performing and teaching career took him on an extensive journey across large swathes of Europe, Scandinavia, Russia and the United States. One of his earlier tours in London included a collaboration with the renowned double bass virtuoso Giovanni Bottesini, described by The Musical World as creating ‘a furore, encored in a hurricane of applause’.

Sauret was not only a supreme virtuoso (as attested by his compositions and reviews of his concerts in periodicals of the time), but also earned a scholarly reputation, having held positions at several institutions including the Neue Akademie der Tonkunst and the Stern Conservatoire in Berlin and at the Royal Academy of Music in Sweden. The well-travelled virtuoso eventually moved to London, where he succeeded Prosper Sainton as professor of violin at the Royal Academy of Music, a position he held for thirteen years between 1891 and 1903. He subsequently moved to the United States having accepted a position at the Musical College of Chicago, and settled back in London in 1915, when he took up his last appointment at the Trinity College of Music. Sauret was an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music and a Member of the Philharmonic Society and was recognised for his contribution to the arts by receipt of Orders of Merit from Denmark, Sweden, Spain and Russia.

Sauret’s compositions encompass a variety of charming works and arrangements, a Violin Concerto, as well as a collection of technical studies including the 20 Grandes Études, Op. 24 and 12 Études artistiques, Op. 38. It was in the last couple of years of his appointment as Professor of Violin at London’s Royal Academy of Music that he produced two major publications: Gradus ad Parnassum du violoniste in 1896 (published by Forberg, Berlin) and the 24 Études-Caprices in 1902 (published by Simrock). The former included the notably fiendish cadenza he composed for Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1.

These last two publications cover the gamut from simple exercises to the most complex and highly varied technical challenges in the Études. His contribution came at a time when the city was experiencing what the Academy Fellow Frederick Corder described as ‘a perfect craze for learning the fiddle’. The renowned twentieth-century violinist and teacher Carl Flesch also noted in his book of memoirs that ‘the fame of a Wilhelmj or a Sauret induced many violinists to study in London’ in the early years of the twentieth century.

The Études-Caprices were dedicated to Sauret’s student and friend, Marjorie Hayward, who entered his class at the age of twelve and must have shown incredible promise to have been the dedicatee of such works within five years under his tutelage. The renowned British violinist possessed a beautiful tone and a remarkably flawless technique which was beautifully captured in a recording she made of Smetana’s Bohemian Dance in the early 1920s.

The Études-Caprices are infused with an extraordinary density of variations, only rarely used for show, rather constantly drawing the ear away from the repetition at the core of an étude. For the player, this unending variety, and the resultant length of the études, is an invocation to draw every resource of expressiveness from the instrument. Perhaps an analogy may be drawn with the Art Nouveau movement, which extended throughout Europe in the decorative arts and architecture, encouraging the use of detailed ornamentation and curved shapes. (Indeed, the decoration on the front cover of the published edition lends weight to this theory.) The filigree figurations, the sinuous detail and the asymmetry that Sauret seems to have aimed for all speak to a love of the sheer beauty of making sound on the violin.

There has been a long tradition of writing a collection of works, arranged in various cycles spanning all 24 keys. Assembled in a similar sequential manner to Chopin’s 24 Preludes, Op. 28 and Rode’s 24 Caprices, Sauret’s Études-Caprices ascend in a circle of fourths, with each major key followed by its relative minor.

Étude-Caprice No. 1 in C major (Andante cantabile – Allegro moderato) begins with a sweet and decorative phrase developing into a sinuous melodic line led by beautiful harmonic progressions. Adventurous modulations and a selection of ever-changing bowing patterns embellish and drive the rapid semiquaver movement in the second part of the Étude-Caprice.

Étude-Caprice No. 2 in A minor (Lento – Moderato) has an atmospheric and haunting opening, ascending on the minor scale with hints of ornaments (trills and appoggiaturas) which later reappear in various forms. In the second part of the Étude-Caprice, the specific instruction to play with the bow at the tip creates a challenge in itself in terms of the registral leaps.

Étude-Caprice No. 3 in F major (Tempo moderato – Allegro non troppo) is enveloped by a four-bar arpeggiated motif, unfolding a most expressive and sweet, lilting melody. Fragments of the rhythmic wave faintly reappear in the second section, this time decorated with various scalic, chromatic and arpeggiated sequences.

Étude-Caprice No. 4 in D minor (Andante maestoso – Moderato) expands the boundaries of the fingerboard through arpeggiated passages reaching as high as the fourteenth position, while handling various ricochet and flying staccato bow strokes in the first section. An arpeggiated stream of demisemiquavers engulfs the second section of the Étude-Caprice.

Étude-Caprice No. 5 in B flat major (Andante non troppo – Allegro moderato) features an assortment of runs in thirds, sixths, octaves, interspersed with some filigree demisemiquaver passages. A complex bowing pattern incorporating simultaneous bow changes (reversal of bow direction at times) and string crossings introduces the second section, accompanied by specific dynamic indications, which bring out a strong bass line and counter-melody.

Étude-Caprice No. 6 in G minor (Larghetto, risoluto e più lento – Moderato) is the longest in the set, extending to three contrasting sections. A short melancholic theme undergoes a journey of variation where it is first inverted in a two part polyphonic line, later reoccurring in octaves, continuing on to chromatic double-stopped passages filled with semiquaver and demisemiquaver material. The second section encompasses a selection of staccato chords and rising double-stops before culminating in a flourishing descending passage. The triplet sequential pattern in the third section is carried out at the tip of the bow, with the challenge of the octave, tenth, and, at one point, three octave leaps across the strings.

Étude-Caprice No. 7 in E flat major (Andantino – Allegro) The first section begins in B flat major, deviating slightly from the cycle. A very expressive melody starts the section which later develops into a chromatic sequence of thirds and sixths, eventually seeing the return of the opening melody fade into demisemiquaver material, ending the section on a plucked connecting cadence. The second section in E flat major has a bright and energetic fanfarelike entry in double stops, before launching into a cascade of semiquavers – stretching the capacity of positions on each of the four strings.

Nazrin Rashidova

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