Pablo de Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen
As one of the most famous violin virtuosos of the 19th century, Pablo de Sarasate was also a keen composer for the instrument too. His perennially popular Zigeunerweisen was composed and published in 1878. Inspired by folk tunes from Rome, Zigeunerweisen has pleased audiences and performers alike with its virtuosic flair and dramatic melodies.
The Gypsy tunes used in Zigeunerweisen are not from Sarasate’s native home of Spain, but from Hungary, where the composer went on many tours. The work opens with a cadenza-like introduction that’s full of drama and intensity for both the orchestra and the soloist. This is followed by a pair of dance melodies, the first slow and the second much faster. Both of these dances bear well-known Hungarian popular tunes.
Sarasate, an already highly accomplished violinist, exploits many extended techniques in Zigeunerweisen, which makes it all the more exciting for the listener and challenging for the performer. Techniques such as pizzicato with both hands, harmonics and soft muted passages can be heard littered throughout the piece to create timbral shifts and add a new dimension to the music.
The incessantly fast closing passages are light, bouncy and highly virtuosic for the soloist. The orchestra are merely accompanying by this point leaving apt room for the soloist to shine through as the star. Zigeunerweisen comes to a rousing finish as the fast intricate solo passage comes to an abrupt halt with the support of the orchestra.
Sometimes used as an exciting encore piece, Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen is a true crowd-pleaser that shows off some of the finest virtuosic players on the planet. From drama to love and beyond, Zigeunerweisen has it all.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
You might also enjoy… Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No.2