Pablo de Sarasate


Op. 23/2 • “Spanish Dances No. 6”

About this work

Regarded as perhaps the best of Sarasate's Spanish Dances, the Zapateado not only derives its rhythm and gestures directly from Spanish popular music, but serves as a catalog of string effects popular among late-nineteenth century virtuosi. The piano sets the tone with an exciting introductory passage, the right hand playing hints of a melody over a fast, pulsing left-hand accompaniment. (After this, the piano is reduced to a galloping but self-effacing accompaniment.) Immediately the violin picks up on the pulsing figure, with a staccato "revving up" that shoots into the high register and swings down again to turn this rhythmic figure into the basis of a lively melody, sweeping up and down the staff, extending into the instrument's highest reaches, and disintegrating into a flurry of pizzicato notes.

The violin then settles into a more melodic section, still fast, and closely related to the rhythmic material with which it entered. But it's still a showy passage, calling on momentary harmonics and littered with left-hand pizzicati. A more sustained but high-lying lyrical passage ensues, which Sarasate immediately varies, again running the notes into the violin's highest reaches. After a repeat of the section that followed the introduction, Sarasate allows the exhausted violinist to come to an abrupt halt with the briefest of codas.