Pablo de Sarasate Zigeunerweisen

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Pablo de Sarasate Zigeunerweisen Program Notes

Sarasate was born in the small, northern Spanish city of Pamplona, famed for its running-of-the-bulls, featured in Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises. Père Sarasate was a military musician, and recognized Pablo’s prodigious talent when the child was five. Giving recitals by eight, Pablo was sent to Madrid for formal studies, before the Paris conservatoire, where he won their first prize aged 17. Over his career he was celebrated for brilliant technique, with many great pieces of the violin repertoire composed for him, including Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnol, Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, and concerti by Wieniawski and Saint-Saëns (as well as the latter’s Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso).

Sarasate composed some showpieces for his own performances, including the Carmen Fantasy on Bizet’s themes and this Zigeunerweisen (or ‘Gypsy Airs’). Gypsy was not then considered the pejorative term for the stateless European Roma people that it is now. Its first main section is in C minor, and is at turns heroic, then mournful. In a kind of fantasy form, it has sections of declamation by the solo violin, and its mournful themes are loosely based on Roma melodies. The final section (in the brighter key of A minor), is in a virtuosic 2/4 Allegro molto vivace czardas, with technical fireworks of double-stops fast runs.

Birth name:    Martín Melitón Pablo de Sarasate y Navascués
Born:    March 10, 1844, Pamplona, Spain
Died:    September 20, 1908, France Biarritz, France

Categories: Program Notes