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.
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.