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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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Seen & Heard
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