Violinist, Composer. Born in Pamplona, Spain, he was recognized as a violin prodigy and made his concert debut at the age of eight. His first serious study was in Madrid, where he impressed the court of Queen Isabel II, and from 1856 to 1859 he attended the Paris Conservatory in France, winning top prizes in violin and harmony. At 16 he embarked on what essentially became a 30-year world tour, encompassing Europe, North America, and Asia, and gave command performances for England's Queen Victoria and Napoleon III of France. Sarasate was greatly admired for his seemingly effortless virtuosity and the pure, unaffected tone of his playing. He often mixed the music of composers Ludwig von Beethoven and Felix Mendelssohn with ephemeral light music in his programs, which aided his popularity (except in Germany, where audiences and critics were cool towards him until the late 1870s). Playwright George Bernard Shaw enthused that his technique "left criticism gasping miles behind him". After 1890 he lived in semi-retirement in Biarritz, France, though he returned every year to his native Pamplona to play at the Fiesta de San Fermin, setting of the famous "Running of the Bulls". A series of nine cylinder recordings he made in 1904 showed him still in full possession of his powers. His last years were marred by a respiratory ailment, the cause of his death at 64. His 57 known compositions were written for himself to play and show his predilection for lighter fare, as well as a notable use of Spanish idioms. His "Zigeunerweisen" ("Gypsy Tunes", 1878), four books of "Spanish Dances" (1878 to 1882), and the "Carmen Fantasy" (after Bizet's opera, 1883) remain staples of the violin repertory. In addition, several famous works were dedicated to him, including Lalo's "Symphonie Espagnole", Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No. 2, Saint-Saëns' Violin Concerto No. 3 and the "Introduction and Rondo capriccioso", and Bruch's "Scottish Fantasy".
Bio by: Bobb Edwards