Pablo de Sarasate

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Pablo de Sarasate
Pablo de Sarasate
Background information
Birth nameMartín Melitón Pablo de Sarasate y Navascués
Born(1844-03-10)10 March 1844
Spain Pamplona, Spain
Died20 September 1908(1908-09-20) (aged 64)
France Biarritz, France
Occupation(s)Composer, conductor, violinist
Years active1852–1904

Martín Melitón Pablo de Sarasate y Navascués (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈpaβlo saɾaˈsate]; 10 March 1844 – 20 September 1908) was a Spanish violinist and composer of the Romantic period.


Pablo Sarasate was born in Pamplona, Navarre, the son of an artillery bandmaster. Apparently he picked up the violin and played a passage of music perfectly his father had been struggling to play for a long time. He began studying the violin with his father at the age of five and later took lessons from a local teacher. His musical talent became evident early on and he appeared in his first public concert in A 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. (There was not another Spanish violinist to achieve this until Manuel Quiroga did so in 1911; Quiroga was frequently compared to Sarasate throughout his career.)

Sarasate, who had been publicly performing 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. His artistic pre-eminence was due principally to the purity of his tone, which was free from any tendency towards the sentimental or rhapsodic, and to that impressive facility of execution that made him a virtuoso. In his early career, Sarasate performed mainly opera fantasies, most notably the Fantasía Carmen, and various other pieces that he had composed. The popularity of Sarasate's Spanish flavour in his compositions is reflected in the work of his contemporaries. For example, the influences of Spanish music can be heard in such notable works as Édouard Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole which was dedicated to Sarasate; Georges Bizet's Carmen; and Camille Saint-Saëns' Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso, written expressly for Sarasate and dedicated to him.

Of Sarasate's idiomatic writing for his instrument, the playwright and music critic George Bernard Shaw once declared that though there were many composers of music for the violin, there were but few composers of violin music. Of Sarasate's talents as performer and composer, Shaw said that he "left criticism gasping miles behind him". Sarasate's own compositions are mainly show-pieces designed to demonstrate his exemplary technique. Perhaps the best known of his works is Zigeunerweisen (1878), a work for violin and orchestra. Another piece, the Fantasía Carmen (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, brief pieces designed to please the listener's ear and show off the performer's talent. He also made arrangements of a number of other composers' work for violin, and composed sets of variations on "potpourris" drawn from operas familiar to his audiences, such as his Fantasia on La forza del destino (his Opus 1), his "Souvenirs de Faust", or his variations on themes from Die Zauberflöte. At Brussels, he met Berthe Marx, who traveled with him as soloist and accompanist on his tours through Europe, Mexico, and the US; playing in about 600 concerts. She also arranged Sarasate's Spanish dances for the piano.[1] In 1904, he made a small number of recordings. In all his travels Sarasate returned to Pamplona each year for the San Fermín festival.[2]

The familiar figure of Sarasate caricatured as a "Man of the Day" for Vanity Fair, 1889

Sarasate died in Biarritz, France, on 20 September 1908, from chronic bronchitis. He bequeathed his violin, made by Antonio Stradivari in 1724, to the Musée de la Musique. The violin now bears his name as the Sarasate Stradivarius in his memory. His second Stradivari violin, the Boissier of 1713, is now owned by Real Conservatorio Superior de Música, Madrid. Among his violin pupils was Alfred de Sève. The Pablo Sarasate International Violin Competition is held in Pamplona.

A number of works for violin were dedicated to Sarasate, including Henryk Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No. 2, Édouard Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole, Camille Saint-Saëns' Violin Concerto No. 3 and his Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, Max Bruch's Scottish Fantasy, and Alexander Mackenzie's Pibroch Suite. Also inspired by Sarasate is William H. Potstock's Souvenir de Sarasate.

Appearance in other art forms[edit]

  • James Whistler's Arrangement in Black: Pablo de Sarasate (1884) is a portrait of Pablo Sarasate.
  • In Arthur Conan Doyle's short story The Red-Headed League (1891), Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson attend a concert by Sarasate.
  • Sarasate is a major figure in Murder to Music, a Sherlock Holmes pastiche by Anthony Burgess.[3] Holmes is also mentioned as attending a Sarasate concert in The Treasure Train by Frankie Thomas.
  • In Edith Wharton's 1920 novel The Age of Innocence, set in 1870s New York, the main protagonist is invited to a private recital to be given by Sarasate.
  • Zigeunerweisen is the title of Seijun Suzuki's 1980 movie, the first of the so-called Taisho Trilogy. A recording of the air of the same title by Sarasate, and his that can be heard on the recording, are one of the themes of the movie.
  • He appears in Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters story A Study in Sable (based on the folk tale "The Twa Sisters"), as an Elemental Master of Spirit, able to conjure, speak with, and to some extent control ghosts with his music; he even goes so far as to use a bow made of the bone and hair of a murdered woman in an effort to bring her murderous sister to justice.

List of compositions[4][edit]

Chopin (arr. Sarasate) Nocturne Op.9 No.2Violin and piano
Moszkowski (arr. Sarasate) Guitarre Op.45 No.2Violin and piano
Fantaisie-Caprice1862Violin and piano
Los pájaros de ChileViolin and piano
Mazurka en MiViolin and piano
Souvenir de Faust (Gounod)1865Violin and piano
1Fantasy on La forza del destino (Verdi)Violin and piano
2Homenaje a Rossini1866Violin and piano
3La dame blanche (Boieldieu)Violin and orchestra
4RéverieViolin and piano
5Fantasy on Roméo et Juliette (Gounod)1868Violin and piano
6Caprice on MireilleViolin and piano
7ConfidencesViolin and piano
8Souvenir de Domont (Vals de salón)Violin and piano
9Les Adieux1899 (?)Violin and piano
10Sérénade AndalouseViolin and piano
11Le sommeilViolin and piano
12MoscovienneViolin and piano
13New Fantasy on Faust (Gounod)1874Violin and orchestra
14Fantasy on Der Freischütz (Weber)1874Violin and orchestra
15Mosaíque de Zampa (Herold)Violin and piano
16Gavota on Mignon (Thomas)1869Violin and piano
17Priére at Berceuse1870Violin and piano
18Airs espagnols1874 (?)Violin and piano
19Réminiscence on Martha (Flothow)Violin and piano
20Aires Bohemios, Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs)1878Violin and orchestra
21Malagueña y Habanera (Spanish Dances Nos. 1, 2 - Book I)1878Violin and piano
22Romanza andaluza y Jota navarra (Spanish Dances Nos. 3, 4 - Book II)1898Violin and piano
23Playera y Zapateado (Spanish Dances Nos. 5, 6 - Book III)1880Violin and piano
24Caprice Basque (Capricho vasco)1880Violin and piano
25Fantasy on Carmen (Bizet)1882Violin and orchestra
26Vito y Habanera (Spanish Dances Nos.7, 8 - Book IV)1881 ca.Violin and piano
27Jota aragonesaViolin and piano
28Serenata andaluza1883Violin and piano
29El canto del ruiseñorViolin and orchestra
30Bolero1885Violin and piano
31Balada1885Violin and piano
32Muñeira1885Violin and orchestra
33Navarra18892 Violins and orchestra
34Airs Écossais1872Violin and orchestra
35Peteneras, Caprice espagnolViolin and piano
36Jota de San Fermín1894Violin and piano
37Zortzico Adiós montañas mías1895Violin and piano
38Viva Sevilla!1896Violin and orchestra
39Zortzico de IparraguirreViolin and piano
40Introduction et Fandango variéViolin and piano
41Introduction et Caprice-jota1899Violin and orchestra
42Zortzico Miramar1899Violin and orchestra
43Introduction et Tarantelle1900Violin and orchestra
44La chasse1901Violin and orchestra
45Nocturno - Serenata1901Violin and orchestra
46Gondoliéra VenezianaViolin and piano
47Melodía rumana1901Violin and piano
48L'Esprit Follet1904Violin and orchestra
49Canciones rusas1904Violin and orchestra
50Jota de Pamplona1904Violin and orchestra
51Fantasy on Don Giovanni (Mozart)Violin and piano
52Jota de Pablo1906Violin and orchestra
53Le Rève (El Sueño)1908Violin and piano
54Fantasy on Die Zauberflöte (Mozart)1908Violin and orchestra


  1. ^ Singer & Adler 1912, p. 357.
  2. ^ Zdenko Silvela,A New History Of Violin Playing 2001:199.
  3. ^ Originally published in Burgess' The Devil's Mode (Random House, 1989). Reprinted 2009 in The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, ed. John Joseph Adams (San Francisco: Night Shade Books [ISBN 978-1-61523-551-3, ISBN 978-1-59780-160-7])
  4. ^ Catalogue of Works



  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: I. Singer & C. Adler's The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (1912)

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sarasate y Navascues, Pablo Martin Meliton de". Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 204.