Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso Op. 23 (1863)
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
Like Mozart, Camille Saint-Saëns was a child prodigy who started composing at the age of three. At age 11 he debuted as a concert pianist, as an encore offering to play any Beethoven sonata the audience could name! Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate, another child prodigy, had no hesitation at the age of 15 in asking Saint-Saëns to write a violin concerto for him, which he did. Four years later, Saint-Saëns wrote a second work for Sarasate, the virtuosic Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, designed to show off Sarasate’s dazzling technique. It remained in Sarasate’s standard repertoire until his death in 1908, by which time he had recorded several commercial recordings. Nevertheless, he was outlived by Saint-Saëns, who survived World War I.
The reflective introduction is in the form of an extended opera-like recitative. The syncopated theme that opens the Rondo has a distinctively Spanish flavour, reflecting the work’s dedicatee. A lyrical theme contrasts with the wild leaps and runs of the more exuberant passages, before a triple-stopping cadenza leads to a frenetically brilliant coda.