Sarasate – Navarra, Op. 33

His only work for violin duo and orchestra, Sarasate’s Navarra is renowned as one of the most virtuosic duets ever written for the instrument, where neither player is lesser than the other – the two soloists’ melodic lines gracefully imitate and intertwine with each other, before exploding into a fiendishly difficult coda, which has taken even the most skilled virtuosi years to master.

Pablo de Sarasate named the piece after his birthplace – Pamplona, in Navarra, now an autonomous region of Northern Spain. He was taught violin by his father from the prodigious age of five, and performed in public for the first time aged eight. Just four years later he was sent to the Paris Conservatory, and went on to frequently tour Paris, London, for royalty in Madrid as well as reaching the Americas.

He composed his grand duet ‘Navarra’ in 1889, well into his career, as a tribute to his background. The bulk of the piece is a type of minuet dance; more specifically a jota, which is a Northern Spanish variant of the Waltz from around the 18th century. This same dance also inspired the Entr’acte to act four of Bizet’s Carmen, but more similarly it features in Saint-Saens’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso for solo violin and orchestra.

If you enjoyed this piece, Sarasate has many equally virtuosic works for violin and orchestra, such as his Ziguenerweisen, his Introduction and Tarantelle, or the furiously energetic Zapateado for violin and piano. Paganini also wrote exceptionally well-written… and very difficult… music for the violin, most famously in his 24 Caprices for solo violin, but he also wrote a number of popular concertos for violin and orchestra. So much music has been written in this style – and for more works like this, you can always check out Twoset Violin 🙂

The links above all go to a mixture of Youtube channels.

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