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Carmen Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra

Carmen Fantasy, Op. 25
Pablo de Sarasate
b. Pamplona, Spain / March 10, 1844; d. Biarritz, France / September 20, 1908


Sarasate first showed promise as a composer. The affinity for the violin that bloomed slightly later and proved deep and lasting, and led him to the career of star soloist instead.

In his day, paraphrases on well-known operatic melodies made up a regular part of soloists’ repertoire. They often created them for their own performances. Audiences enjoyed hearing tunes they knew, decked out with all the tricks and embellishments that virtuoso soloists could muster. Sarasate created several such pieces, on themes from operas by Mozart (Don Giovanni), Weber (Der Freischütz), Gounod (Faust), Verdi (La forza del destino), and many more.

The most striking of the lot is founded upon themes from Georges Bizet’s fiery Spanish romance, Carmen. Sarasate composed it in the early 1880s, just a few years after the opera’s premiere. Retaining Bizet’s colourful original orchestration, it turns the soloist loose on five of the best-known themes: the lively, Spanish-dance Entr’acte to act four, followed by three selections from act one: the sultry Habanera (original melody by Sebastian Yradier, which Bizet had mistaken for a Spanish folk song); a sinuous song and melodrama; and the flirtatious Seguidilla. The whirlwind Gypsy Song from act two provides the no-holds-barred finale.

Program Notes Don Anderson 2012

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