Sarasate, Pablo de

Pablo de Sarasate (10 March 1844 – 20 September 1908) was a Romantic-era Spanish violin player, composer, and conductor. Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), Spanish Dances, and Carmen Fantasy are his best-known works. Sarasate was born in Pamplona, Navarre, in 1844, the son of a local artillery bandmaster, Don Miguel Sarasate. After watching his father struggle for an extended period with a section, he picked up the violin and played it flawlessly. At age five, he began practicing the violin with his father and later took lessons from a local tutor. His musical talent was evident from an early age, and at the age of eight, he had his first public performance in A Corua. His performance was well-received, and it drew the notice of a wealthy patron who funded Sarasate's studies in Madrid under Manuel Rodrguez Saez, earning him the favor of Queen Isabella II. As his abilities grew, his parents decided to send him to the Paris Conservatoire to study under Jean-Delphin Alard at the age of twelve. Unfortunately, at the Spanish-French border, his mother (who had accompanied him) died of a heart attack aboard the train en way to Paris, and Sarasate was diagnosed with cholera. Sarasate was taken to his home by the Spanish consul in Bayonne, who nursed him back to health and then paid for his passage to Paris. Sarasate successfully auditioned for Alard, who arranged to live with his colleague Théodore de Lassabathie, the Conservatoire's administrator. Sarasate entered a competition for the Premier Prix at seventeen and earned the first prize, the Conservatoire's highest accolade. Sarasate, who had been performing publicly since boyhood, made his Paris debut as a concert violinist in 1860 and followed that up with a performance in London the following year. He toured several regions of the world during his career, including Europe, North America, and South America. His virtuosity was mainly attributed to the purity of his tone, free of any sentimental or rhapsodic tendencies, and his exceptional execution facility.

Sarasate began his career by performing opera fantasies, most notably the Carmen Fantasy and other composed works. Sarasate's renown as a composer with a Spanish flavor is mirrored in the music of his contemporaries. Spanish influences can be heard in works like Édouard Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole, which was dedicated to Sarasate; Georges Bizet's Carmen; and Camille Saint-Saens' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, which were written exceptionally for Sarasate and dedicated to him. The playwright and music critic George Bernard Shaw famously said of Sarasate's idiomatic writing for his instrument, "There are few composers of violin music, though there are many composers of violin music." Shaw wrote of Sarasate's abilities as a musician and composer, "he left criticism gasping miles behind him." Sarasate's works are primarily showpieces intended to exhibit his exceptional technique. Zigeunerweisen (1878), a piece for violin and orchestra, is perhaps his most well-known work. Another piece for violin and orchestra, the Carmen Fantasy (1883), uses elements from Georges Bizet's opera Carmen. His four books of Spanish Dances, Opp. 21, 22, 23, 26, are probably his most popular encores, quick compositions designed to satisfy the listener's ear and show off the performer's talent. He also produced sets of variations on "potpourris" culled from operas familiar to his listeners, like his Fantasia on La Forza del Destino (his Opus 1), his "Souvenirs de Faust," or variations on themes from Die Zauberflöte. He met Berthe Marx in Brussels, and she accompanied him on tours around Europe, Mexico, and the United States, performing in over 600 shows. Sarasate's Spanish Dances were also arranged for the piano by her. He recorded a small number of recordings in 1904. Sarasate visited Pamplona every year for the San Fermin festival during his travels. Sarasate died of severe bronchitis on September 20, 1908, in Biarritz, France. He left his violin to the Musée de la Musique, created by Antonio Stradivari in 1724. In his honor, the violin is currently known as the Sarasate Stradivarius. Real Conservatorio Superior de Msica, Madrid, presently has his second Stradivari violin, the Boissier of 1713. Alfred de Sève was one of his violin students. Pamplona hosts the Pablo Sarasate International Violin Competition. Henryk Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No. 2, Édouard Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole, Camille Saint-Saens' Violin Concerto No. 3 and his Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Max Bruch's Scottish Fantasy, and Alexander Mackenzie's Pibroch Suite are among the works devoted to Sarasate for violin. Sarasate also influenced William H. Potstock's Souvenir de Sarasate.

Violin compositions of Pablo de Sarasate | Animato Strings


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