Sounds of Sarasate

Pablo de Sarasate’s violin showpieces evoke the sunny, exotic warmth of Spain. A violinist and composer, Sarasate (1844-1908) contributed greatly to the development of the violin. Here are a few legendary performances of his short, technically dazzling pieces.

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Zapateado[/typography]

We’ll start with a performance of Zapateado from Midori’s 1990 Carnegie Hall debut recital. I featured another piece from this recital in a past post. Zapato is the Spanish word for “shoe.” Zapateado is a dance which originated with native Mexicans and was discovered by Spanish explorers who brought it back to Europe. You’ll hear violinistic effects such as left hand pizzicato, up bow staccato and harmonics:

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Playera[/typography]

Here is a 1952 recording of Ruggiero Ricci playing Playera. He is accompanied on the piano by the legendary violinist and teacher,  Louis Persinger. Listen to the persistent underlying dance rhythm and the seductive vocal quality of the violin line:

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Romanza Andaluza[/typography]

One of my favorite recordings of Romanza Andaluza is Itzhak Perlman’s with Samuel Sanders on the piano:

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Zigeunerweisen[/typography]

Sarasate’s most famous piece may be Zigeunerweisen, or “Gypsy Airs.” Here is a 1959 recording of Michael Rabin with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Felix Slatkin. Rabin’s life was cut short tragically, but his recordings cement his legacy as one of the twentieth century’s greatest violinists:

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Share your favorite recordings.[/typography]

Leave a comment in the thread below with your thoughts on these performances. Also, share your favorite Sarasate recordings. Which violinists do you particularly admire and why?

Perlman Plays Tchaikovsky

Listen to this amazing performance of the final movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto played by Itzhak Perlman.  You probably know Tchaikovsky as a Romantic composer of lush, fiery, emotionally charged music, but don’t forget that he was also a ballet composer.  You may notice a grace and elegance in the rhythm that suggests dance.

After you listen, consider what makes Perlman’s performance so exciting.  The piece is a tight rope walk but Perlman is always in control.  Notice his sense of timing and the precision of his rhythm.  The music never rushes.  Also pay attention to his highly expressive and often roaring tone.  Does this expand your perspective on what type of tone is “beautiful”?  Do you hear tone colors that you didn’t know the violin could produce?

Notice how the orchestra interacts with the solo, sometimes supporting and other times conversing.  Pay attention to each instrument’s unique personality and color.  For instance in the interlude at 5:54 notice how the melody is passed back and forth between the oboe and clarinet and then the flute and bassoon. Each voice brings a unique color.

You can find a live recording of this performance with Perlman, Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic at iTunes or Amazon.

Now that you’ve enjoyed the clip, you may want to hear Perlman perform the First and Second Movements of the concerto.  Perlman has some interesting things to say about the Tchaikovsky concerto here.