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Pablo de Sarasate and Zigeunerweisen

     Pablo Martín Melitón de Sarasate (March 10, 1844 –September 20, 1908) was a Spanish violinist and composer of the Romantic period who was born in Pamplona, Navarre, the son of an artillery bandmaster. He began studying the violin with his father at the age of five and later took lessons from a local teacher but his musical talent became evident early on and he appeared in his first public concert in La Coruña at the age of eight. His performance was well-received, and caught the attention of a wealthy patron who provided the funding for Sarasate to study under Manuel Rodríguez Saez in Madrid where he gained the favor of Queen Isabella II. Later, as his abilities developed, he was sent to study under Jean-Delphin Alard at the Paris Conservatoire at the age of twelve. There, at seventeen, Sarasate entered a competition for the Premier Prix and won his first prize, the Conservatoire’s highest honour.     

     Sarasate, who had been playing in public since childhood, made his Paris debut as a concert violinist in 1860, and played in London the following year. Over the course of his career, he toured many parts of the world, performing in Europe, North America, and South America, but in all his travels he returned to Pamplona each year for the San Fermín festival.  In his early career, Sarasate performed mainly opera fantasies, such as his Fantasia on La forza del destino (his Opus 1), his “Souvenirs of Faust”, or his variations on themes from Die Zauberflöte, and various other pieces that he had composed.  

      Perhaps the best known of his works is Zigeunerweisen (1878), a work for violin and orchestra. Another piece, the Carmen Fantasy (1883), also for violin and orchestra, makes use of themes from Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen. Probably his most performed encores are his two books of Spanish dances.  In 1904 he made a small number of recordings.   Sarasate died in Biarritz, France on September 20, 1908 from chronic bronchitis. Among his violin pupils was Alfred De Sève. The Pablo Sarasate International Violin Competition is held in Pamplona.

     Sarasate’s most frequently heard compositions for violin and orchestra include:

                Carmen Fantasy, op. 25 (1883). 

                Zigeunerweisen, op. 20 (1863)

     Also, some of his Spanish Dances, originally written for violin and piano accompaniment, have been arranged for violin and orchestra, the best known of which is:

                Zapateado, op. 23, no. 6.


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