Friday, January 9, 2015

Sarasate - Concert Fantasy On Themes From Gounod's 'Faust'

The French composer Charles Gounod is remembered mostly for his operas, with Faust being his most popular. The opera was loosely based on Johann Goethe's play Faust : eine Tragödie, Part One.  The legend of Faust, a scholar that trades his soul to the devil so he can gain unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures, is a German legend that was first published in 1593, but the legend is probably much older than that.  Goethe's version was published in 1808, with a second part published after his death.

Gounod's opera premiered in 1859 but it wasn't until a revival of the work in 1862 that it became popular. At one time Faust was the most popular opera in the repertoire, and Pablo de Sarasate was evidently quite  taken with the opera, for he wrote two fantasies on themes from it, with the later opus 13 fantasy being the subject of this post.

The writing of fantasies on other composer's works was a mainstay of 19th century concert life as well as music publishing.  Tunes from popular operas (the 'hits' of the 19th century) were used by many performer/composers to showcase their virtuosity.  Hearing opera performed live was beyond many music lovers, and the fantasies, variations (or as Liszt called them paraphrases) on popular tunes was a way music lovers could hear the latest works.

Charles Gounod
Sarasate wrote Concert Fantasy On Themes From Gounod's 'Faust'  in 187for violin and piano and as with many of his other fantasies on popular works by other composers, he made a version for soloist and orchestra.

The work begins with dramatic chords played by the piano. The soloist enters and the fireworks begin straight away.  After some appropriately heavy and 'damned' music followed by more lyrical music, Sarasate segues to music from Act 2, At The City Gates.  Faust has already made his pact with  Méphistophélès. At the city gate Méphistophélès sings his aria Le veau d'or (The Golden Calf), a spiteful song about greed and the wickedness of man.  Sarasate translates some of the harshness of the original with the embellishments he gives to the aria.  The set of themes are from the Garden Scene, Act 3 of the opera. Méphistophélès and  Faust are in Marguerite's garden where Faust attempts to seduce her.  Faust kisses her, but she sends him away. But soon she longs for him and calls for his return. The final theme used is from the final scenes of Act 2, the famous Waltz From Faust.

1 comment:

  1. There is a new realise of this great Faust fantasies:

    http://www.amazon.de/Opera-Phantasies-Vol-Volker-Reinhold/dp/B0114WKJ5I

    ReplyDelete

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