Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ida Haendel: De Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy



Ida Haendel plays the Carmen Fantasy. Haendel, among the first-rank violinists of the 20th century, is known to play with great emotion and intensity, bringing a soulful passion to her music.

Ida Haendel was born to Nathan and Fela Haendel in  Chelm, Poland, on December 15, 1928. The father was a painter and a violinist. A child prodigy, the story goes that Haendel picked up her older sister Alice's violin at age three-and-a-half and perfectly played the song her mother had been singing in another room. Sensing her talent and the need to nurture it, the family moved to Warsaw, where she studied at the Warsaw Conservatory. She has been performing since she won first place at the Henryk Wieniawski Competition in Warsaw at age seven, playing the Beethoven concerto.

She moved to Paris and then London in 1937, staying there during the Second World War, where she played for Allied soldiers. She eventually obtaining British citizenship in 1940. When her sister Alice and her husband moved to Canada, Haendel and her parents followed. She lived in Montreal from 1952 to 1989. When her father died in 1987, Haendel's ties to Canada left also, and she moved to the United States. Haendel, 82, now lives in Miami, Florida. She never married.

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The Carmen Fantasy, Op. 25, for violin and orchestra, was written by Pablo de Sarasate in 1883. This piece uses famous melodies from Georges Bizet's opera Carmen. The Carmen Fantasy is one of Sarasate's most notable works, and is often performed for violin contests. It is considered a show-piece.


Pablo de Sarasate [1844-1908]: Spanish composer and violinist of the Romantic period, Sarasate wrote the Carmen Fantasy in 1883. As he once said: "For 37 years I've practiced 14 hours a day, and now they call me a genius."
Source: Wikipedia

Here are some background notes on De Sarasate:
Pablo Sarasate was born in Pamplona, Spain, the son of an artillery bandmaster. He began studying the violin with his father at the age of five and later took lessons from a local teacher but his musical talent became evident early on and he appeared in his first public concert in La 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 Isabel 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.

Sarasate, who had been playing in public 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 Carmen Fantasy, and various other pieces that he had composed. The popularity of Sarasate's Spanish flavor 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 and Rondo Capriccioso, written expressly for Sarasate and dedicated to him.

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