DORIAN RECORDINGS: DOR-90183
Dates Recorded: February 1994 at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in
Special Thanks: Donald Draganski and John Carsello of the Roosevelt University Music Library, Chicago; and Lee, Mike and Paul from Performer's Music
This, my first CD, was recorded when I was 18. After hearing me perform in the finals of the Kreisler International Competition in Vienna in 1992, Dorian invited me to make an album of works by the great 19th-century Spanish violin virtuoso and composer Pablo de Sarasate. I had performed Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy often over the years, and I had also learned a few of his other famous works, including the Introduction and Tarantelle, Zapateado, and Zigeunerweisen. To prepare for this album, I collected and learned every other piece he wrote. Although time-consuming, the familiarity I acquired with Sarasate's style now helps me interpret on a much deeper level such Spanish-flavored works as Saint-Saens's Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso and the Symphonie Espagnole by Lalo, which were dedicated to him.
As Dorian and I decided to stay with a Spanish theme, I eliminated the Zigeunerweisen, Sarasate's other opera fantasies, and his beautiful French pieces. Choosing my favorites from among the remaining works was a challenge, and those selected include some great ones. The Muiniera, with its hurdy-gurdy imitation, was an especially intriguing discovery.
Working with pianist Samuel Sanders was a great honor. I had grown up listening to him collaborate with Perlman on recordings and in performance, and he always was an inspiring chamber musician. During our rehearsals and recording sessions, he also proved to be a generous mentor. Not only did he give me invaluable musical advice and suggestions, but he also led me through the process of working with recording engineers and pacing myself emotionally during the sessions. Whenever I started to feel stress, Sam's good humor chased it away. I will always miss him and remember him with love and gratitude.
"HOMAGE TO SARASATE"
"So what am I doing standing up here with my violin in my hand, while the oboe plays the only melody in the whole piece?" With these words, a violinist rejected the Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77. Brahms' "Concierto" certainly does have other melodies and, notwithstanding the words of the soloist, rather more than a daring whim. The violinist was Pablo de Sarasate y Navascuez (b. Pamplona, March 10, 1844; d. Biarritz, June 20, 1908).
Sarasate was baptized with the names of Martín Meliton. Martín after his father, and Meliton for the Saint's Day on which he was born. His names Sarasate and Navascuez are taken from the names of villages in Navarre. Sarasate, the son of a military musician, was a child prodigy who, after some classes in Corunna and Madrid, studied with Delphin Alard (1815-1888) at the Paris Conservatory beginning in 1856, winning the First Violin Prize in 1857. Following studies with Henri Reber (1807-1880), he began his career as a concert player, adopting the name of Pablo, which he legalized in 1878.
Sarasate was a contemporary of Joachim (1831-1907), Wieniawski (1835-1880) and Auer (1845-1930) among others. Ysaye (1858-1931) was later to say, "Sarasate has taught people to play while tuning." It was generally held that Sarasate was distinguished for his elegance (sometimes exhibitionist in a studied way), for his technical precision, and his delicate sound which combined sensual beauty and freedom from tonal impurities. These qualities fascinated the general public, and critics such as Hanslick, who acknowledged the rarity of his "stream of beautiful sound." In his day, he came to be the foremost of virtuosi, performing across Europe and so entering the public imagination as to capture the admiration of that fictitious amateur of the violin, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who Conan Doyle refers to as having attended the great Spaniard's concerts. In performance, he is described as having stood with absolute poise and calm on the stage, never allowing even the most challenging passage work to break the image of nonchalant control, refinement and mastery. Few would have challenged his right to be ranked as the natural successor to Paganini.
Sarasate was also notable for his repertory. His collection of music, now housed in the Municipal Archives of Pamplona, shows that he had a broad knowledge of, and interest in, chamber music- even such then-recent works as the Debussy String Quartet, composed in 1893, and first performed by a quartet including Ysaÿe in 1894. Sarasate even formed his own string quartet, although he did not perform with it in public. In concert he played works with which he could give full rein to his virtuosity and tonal refinement, inspiring the likes of Saint-Saëns, Lalo, Bruch, Joachim, Wieniawski and Dvorák to write pieces for him. Such concert favorites as the Bruch Scottish Fantasy and his Second Concerto in D minor, the Lalo Symphonie Espagnole and Saint-Saëns' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso were dedicated to Sarasate and performed by him. Perhaps nowhere, however, did he display his own violinistic brilliance as in his own compositions.
The numbered catalogue of Sarasate's works amounts to 54 pieces. There are also some sketches, incomplete and unnumbered works to add to this figure. The violinist himself attached very little importance to the first 19 pieces, among which there are many fantasies on operatic themes from Faust, La forza del destino, La Dame Blanche, Mireille, Zampa, Mignon, etc. Opus 20, Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs) is possibly his best-known work, and is a masterpiece of its genre.
Sarasate wrote pieces of popular origin in which he used traditional Spanish themes: jotas, zortzikos (or Andalusian melodies), habaneras and boleros. Even in pieces whose themes were entirely of his own invention, there is always a distinctly Spanish folk flavor. Typically, he used these themes as they were, without extensive alteration, formal development or elaboration, allowing the melodies to speak for themselves and retain the irresistible charm of their folk origins. Above all, this is music to display the accomplishments of the player: technical command, expressiveness, and refinement of tone- the very hallmarks of Sarasate's own performing style, and obviously he wrote these pieces to showcase his own playing. Often, he presents a folk theme in its original form, in various octaves, and then adds variations with an emphasis on virtuosity and the performer's expressive powers. The pieces often culminate in the highest treble register of the instrument where the player's virtuosity can be shown to best advantage. Sarasate's pieces also tend to be divided into two sections, the first slow and atmospheric, the second fast and brilliant. This simple bipartite structure characterizes several of the eight Spanish Dances (Danzas Espanolas) comprising Opp. 21, 22, 23 and 26 which form the centerpiece of this recorded program.
Malaguenia, Op. 21, No. 1 completed in 1877 in Mainz and dedicated to Joachim, is an andantino in D Major, molto dolce in 3/8, "full of verve, interesting, and fine," according to its dedication. In the Habanera, Op. 21, No. 2, the main theme is played three times, each time in a higher octave, with virtuosic "time compression" in the final fast section.
The Romanza andalaza and Jota navarra, dedicated to Norman Neruda in autumn of 1878 in Stockholm and Copenhagen, provide a strong contrast. The Andalusian theme, Andantino, which is not a true folk tune, markedly offsets the vigorous allegro of the jota. This jota is the first of the six composed by Sarasate, not counting his Navarra for two violins.
Playera, Op. 23, No. 1 and Zapateado, Op. 23, No. 2 were written in August 1879. The first is a melody with Andalusian resonances, and in current versions the second (an allegro moderato in the manuscript), has become a relentless dance, with only the occasional ritardando and various virtuosic effects punctuating the forward momentum. Sarasate dedicated both to Hugo Hermann. The final two Spanish Dances, from Op. 26, dedicated to Auer, are a Vito and a habanera. The Vito, a dance with words in 3/8, vivace, seems to owe its name to the convulsions known as "St Vitus' Dance."
The Fantasia sobre Carmen, (Carmen Fantasy) Op. 25 was signed by Sarasate in Marseilles on 26 March 1901, that is, just 16 years after the premier of the Bizet opera from which its themes are derived. This was a time in which there was still great interest in concert novelties, and along with Zigeunerweisen, may be ranked among Sarasate's most popular pieces. The Fantasia juxtaposes five of Bizet's themes: the "polo" of the entr'acte which precedes Act IV; "Habanera" which Bizet took from "El arreglito" by Iradier; the song "Tralalala" in Act I (no. 9) sung by Carmen, the Seguidila, and the entr'acte which precedes Act II. Sarasate uses the themes directly, and allows the technical effects and difficulties to accumulate. Thus, in the polo he goes from the highest treble register to the very bottom of the G string. In the habanera he uses four variations, in mordents, double and triple strings, semi-quavers and pizzicati and three fast triplets. In "Tralalala" he finishes the entire first phrase in harmonics in the highest treble, and the last figure, in which Carmen's song is included, he finishes with a variation in semi-quavers. The cumulative effect of the piece, when performed by a violinist of brilliant technique and temperament, is one of breathtaking excitement held in check only by stylish elegance.
The Serenata Andalaza, Op. 28 was dedicated by Sarasate to his younger sister Francisca. As with many of the composer's pieces, this one alternates slow and stately thematic material with bravura writing.
Muiniera, which Sarasate subtitled "theme montagnard varie" was first performed by him in Corunna in 1886, and recalls his childhood years in that city. The Muiniera (lady miller) is a Galician dance in which the opening statement of the theme evokes the rustic hurdy-gurdy with a repeated G creating a striking drone effect.
Miramar, which takes its name from the summer palace of the Kings of Spain in San Sebastian, is a zortziko (allegro moderato) in D Minor. It is written in 5/8 and is dedicated to the Regent Queen María Cristina, the widow of Alfonso XII.
The Introduction et tarantella, Op. 43, dedicated to Fermin Toledo, a friend of Sarasate, was published in 1900. The sunny introduction (moderato) is relatively short, giving way to the frenetic, non-stop excitement of the more extended tarantella (allegro vivace) in C Major. When Sarasate went into the studios of the French Gramophone and Typewriter in 1904 company to "cut'' virtually his entire recorded legacy of 9 short pieces (three Pathé cylinders are known to have been recorded in 1898), he left behind a remarkably strong and exciting account of Op. 43-but presumably because of the time limitations of each side of an acoustical recording, only committed the tarantella to disc.
Obviously Sarasate's music is marked neither by enormous intellectual depth nor structural complexity. These are the works of a master fiddler, challenging both player and instrument and evoking the atmosphere, the dash, flair and melodic richness of his homeland's characteristic music. Despite its simplicity and directness, Sarasate's music is redeemed by its wealth of great tunes, and by the seemingly limitless opportunities it provides violinists to dazzle listeners with brilliant technique and captivate their senses through sheer style.
SAMUEL SANDERS, PIANO
For three decades, pianist Samuel Sanders has partnered some of the leading performers of our time. Artists such as Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Leonard Rose, Yo-Yo Ma, Mstislav Rostropovich, Paula Robison, Hakan Hagegard, Robert White and Jessye Norman have valued Samuel Sanders' unique combination of high musical standards, interpretive and collaborative sensitivity, and professional commitment.
Mr. Sanders has made more than three dozen recordings, two of which won Grammy awards in 1980 and another Grammy nomination in 1987. His most recent releases include discs with violinists Joshua Bell and Itzhak Perlman, 'cellists Andras Schiff and Denis Brott, clarinetist Jon Manasse, and the Brahms 'Cello Sonatas with Andres Diaz.
As a chamber musician Mr. Sanders has performed with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and at major American and European festivals including Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart, Tanglewood, Marlboro, Ravinia, Saratoga, Spoleto (Italy and U.S.), Stratford (Canada), Chichester (England) and Madeira (Portugal).
An esteemed faculty member of the Juilliard School, where he has taught since 1962, and the Peabody Conservatory of Music, Mr. Sanders was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1984 by the St. Louis Conservatory of Music for outstanding accomplishments as a teacher. His enjoyment and love of chamber music sparked him in 1980 to found the Cape and Islands Chamber Music Festival in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, of which he has served as Artistic Director. He also conducts master classes annually in leading cities from Tokyo to Tel Aviv and serves on the Board of Directors of Chamber Music America, the Berkshire Opera Festival, and the Lehman College Performing Arts Center.
Among those events which he considers highlights of his career are winning an honorary award in the 1966 Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow and seven appearances at the White House under five presidents. When not involved as a musician, Mr. Sanders enjoys spending time with his daughter Sophie, a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and enduring the trials of being a die-hard Yankees fan.
Total Time: 78:29