Pablo Sarasate (1844 - 1908)
Concert Fantasy on themes from Bizet's "Carmen," for violin & orchestra, Op 25
Pablo Sarasate was born in Pamplona, northern Spain, and became one of the greatest violin players of the late nineteenth century. The instrumental virtuosi both violinists and pianists - were the rock stars of their day, adored by women, envied by other musicians, and commanding huge fees for concert appearances.
A fellow violinist (Leopold Auer) wrote "From the very first notes he drew from his Stradivarius, I was impressed by the beauty and crystalline purity of his tone. He played without any effort at all, touching the strings with a magic bow in a manner which had no hint of the earth-bound." His playing inspired many composers of the day to write concertos for him, including Bruch, Lalo, Saint-Saens and Dvorak.
But he was also a considerable composer in his own right. His output includes nine fantasies for violin and orchestra based on popular operas of the day, and this one is probably the best. He uses five numbers from Bizet's "Carmen", keeps the original accompaniment, and replaces the vocal line with a spectacular violin part; a dazzling display of melody, ornamentation and fireworks, using every trick in the violinist's repertoire to impress and excite the listener.