The virtuoso music of Pablo de Sarasate has long held a place in violinists’ affections. Sarasate (1844-1908), from Pamplona, was one of the great 19th-century exponents of the instrument: first a child prodigy, later an international superstar who, according to George Bernard Shaw, ‘left criticism gasping miles behind him’. His idiomatically Spanish compositions, written mainly to show off his technical brilliance in performance, gained tremendous currency with the next generations of violinists, who responded with enthusiasm to their energy, verve and display potential; Sarasate had penned the perfect showpieces. Yet in recent years only a few of his works have retained their popularity as concert lollipops. Prime among these is the still-ubiquitous Zigeunerweisen, with which this disc concludes.
Julia Fischer is a serious-minded musician, more associated with the likes of Beethoven and Brahmsthan with fiddle-bling party poppers. But then she doesn’t treat Sarasate as the latter; instead she rises to its challenges with playing that is unpretentious, lively and natural. The free-flowing ease and grace with which she juggles Sarasate’s tallest orders, and the sheer verve she conveys in the process, make this disc a surprise treat.
There is sympathetic and pliable accompaniment from Milana Chernyavskaya and the pair’s rhythmic flexibility and sense of fantasy do the composer plenty of favours. The quality of the music is the only problem – it does risk wearing rather thin rather soon, fun though it is for a while. But the performance remains a complete joy.