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Pablo SARASATE (1844-1908)
Music for violin and piano: Volume 1
Danzas Españolas:
1. Malagueña Op. 21 No. 1 (1875) [4:10]
2. Habanera Op. 21 No. 2 [4:47]
3. Romanza Andaluza Op. 22 No. 1 [4:58]
4. Jota Navarra Op. 22 No. 2 [5:22]
5. Playera Op. 23 No. 1 [4:20]
6. Zapateado Op. 23 No. 2 [3:45]
7. Vito Op. 26 No. 1 [6:31]; No.
8. Habanera Op. 26 No. 2 [4:54]
Capricho Vasco Op. 24 [6:52]
Jota Aragonesa Op. 27 [5:13]
Serenata Andaluza Op. 28 [6:48]
Balada Op. 31 [10:23]
Tianwa Yang (violin), Markus Hadulla (piano)
rec. 27-31 May 2004, Clara Wieck Auditorium, Sandhausen, Germany
NAXOS 8.557767 [68:03]

Sarasate was a legend in his own lifetime, achieving standards of playing that made him a truly international celebrity. For the most part his career was based in Paris, where his influence was enormous. In the long term this has been most palpably felt in the enduring importance of compositions that were written for him, such as the Third Concerto of Saint-Saëns and the Symphonie Espagnole of Lalo.
Among Sarasate’s own compositions just a handful have become widely known, including Zigeunerweisen and the Carmen Fantasy. Among contemporary violinists, Itzhak Perlman has given notable performances of these splendid pieces. In the light of this background, this new recording of music by Sarasate that was inspired by his native Spain becomes all the more interesting.
Sarasate was a violinist-composer after the example of Paganini, so it goes without saying that the music demands a high level of virtuosity of its performers. And among nationalist compositions, it is true that the various regional dance types always encourage a distinctive personality to be felt. The combination of these ingredients is compelling, and is reflected in the music itself.
For the most part, these pieces are around five minutes in duration. This is a time span that is by no means diminutive but which, on the other hand, does not demand quasi-symphonic development. The exception is the Op. 31 Balada, in which there is a wider range of expression as well as the need for controlled passages of quiet playing. Elsewhere it is forthright vigour that tends to be the order of the day.
Across these demands Tianwa Yang proves an appropriately exciting advocate. In 2004, the year of this recording, she was awarded the prize as the ‘Best Young Violinist in China’ by a panel chaired by Seiji Ozawa; and she now announces herself on the international stage. In her endeavours she is ably supported by her pianist, Markus Hadulla, and by the Naxos engineers in providing recorded sound that is both atmospheric and immediate.
The various dances are strongly characterised and individual, and it is worth observing how Sarasate goes out of his way to include many different types from across Spain. The Habanera, with its distinctive and appealing rhythmic pulse, is the only dance to feature twice, and it is therefore fascinating to compare the two versions. In music whose rhythmic nature is so very important, these performers communicate strongly in articulating the essential personality of the composer. Sarasate would surely be proud of them both.
Terry Barfoot


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