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University of Iowa

Iowa Research Online

Theses and Dissertations

Spring 2012

A piece of the exotic: virtuosic violin compositions

and national identity
Gabrielle Annora Harvey
University of Iowa

Copyright 2012 Gabrielle Annora Harvey

This dissertation is available at Iowa Research Online:

Recommended Citation
Harvey, Gabrielle Annora. "A piece of the exotic: virtuosic violin compositions and national identity." DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts)
thesis, University of Iowa, 2012.

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Gabrielle Annora Harvey

An Abstract
Of a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the
Doctor of Musical Arts degree
in the Graduate College of
The University of Iowa

May 2012

Thesis Supervisor: Associate Professor Marian Wilson Kimber



Violin virtuosos Henryk Wieniawski, Ole Bull, and Pablo de Sarasate each composed

short virtuosic works based on their own cultural heritage. This thesis examines the exotic

elements incorporated into the character pieces by the three violinists. It draws upon

contemporary literature and newspaper reviews of their performances in order to demonstrate the

ways in which the violinists and their music were perceived as representative of nineteenth-

century exoticism.

Wieniawski, whose musical training was primarily French, produced exotic Polish

polonaises and mazurkas, which were perceived as evidence of Polish national character, but

only in his homeland of Poland. In contrast, Ole Bull’s Norwegian heritage was central to his

professional persona. His compositions were influenced by Norwegian fiddling and fiddle tunes

as well as the pastoral conventions of European art music. Sarasate drew on music from a wide

variety of geographical and cultural regions within Spain in his Spanish dances. While his dances

were extremely popular with audiences, critical reception was often dismissive. The individual

personas and international receptions of Wieniawski, Bull, and Sarasate were shaped by the

musical characteristics of their homelands heard in their works.

Abstract Approved: ______________________________

Thesis Supervisor

Title and Department


Gabrielle Annora Harvey

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the
Doctor of Musical Arts degree
in the Graduate College of
The University of Iowa

May 2012

Thesis Supervisor: Associate Professor Marian Wilson Kimber

Copyright by
All Rights Reserved
Graduate College
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa



This is to certify that the DMA thesis of

Gabrielle Annora Harvey

has been approved by the Examining Committee

for the thesis requirement for the Doctor of Musical Arts
degree at the May 2012 graduation.

Thesis Committee: __________________________________

Marian Wilson Kimber, Thesis Supervisor

Katherine Wolfe

Anthony Arnone

Scott Conklin

Matthew Arndt
To my mother and father


I am grateful to many people who supported me through the process of writing

this thesis. Dr. Marian Wilson Kimber believed in this project from the first, and spent
many patient hours giving advice, suggesting resources, and reading countless drafts. She
knew I could finish this project even when I was almost sure it would never be done.
Katie Wolfe has been an ever-present source of encouragement to me. I deeply appreciate
her musicality, teaching acumen, intelligence, and kindness. Thank you to Michael

Kimber, who provided German translations for some of my sources. Thanks to my other
committee members, Professor Anthony Arnone, Dr. Scott Conklin, and Dr. Matthew
Arndt, for the time they invested in this project and in me. Thank you to the string faculty
at the University of Iowa, who provided such a positive atmosphere in which to learn and
grow as a musician, and to Dr. Christine Getz and Dr. Wilson Kimber for encouraging
me to study musicology.
My mother, Mary Harvey, deserves much praise for teaching me so well from
kindergarten through high school. If it were not for the foundation she so patiently laid as
I studied with her at the kitchen table this thesis could never have been written. My
father, Rick Harvey, consistently modeled intellectual curiosity, and his habit of lifetime
learning has rubbed off on me. Thanks also go to my brother and sisters and my extended
family for your constant love and support. My friends Laura Clark Martinez, Christin
Hart Thompson, Sara Iverson, and Meagan Gingerich kept me grounded and connected to
the human race during this process. Alice Rohrssen was my online conscience, always
checking in to make sure I was really getting work done. Thank you also to Kevin and
Maria Kummer for being family to me in a city far from home. I love you all.


Violin virtuosos Henryk Wieniawski, Ole Bull, and Pablo de Sarasate each

composed short virtuosic works based on their own cultural heritage. This thesis

examines the exotic elements incorporated into the character pieces by the three

violinists. It draws upon contemporary literature and newspaper reviews of their

performances in order to demonstrate the ways in which the violinists and their music

were perceived as representative of nineteenth-century exoticism.

Wieniawski, whose musical training was primarily French, produced exotic

Polish polonaises and mazurkas, which were perceived as evidence of Polish national

character, but only in his homeland of Poland. In contrast, Ole Bull’s Norwegian heritage

was central to his professional persona. His compositions were influenced by Norwegian

fiddling and fiddle tunes as well as the pastoral conventions of European art music.

Sarasate drew on music from a wide variety of geographical and cultural regions within

Spain in his Spanish dances. While his dances were extrememly popular with audiences,

critical reception was often dismissive. The individual personas and international

receptions of Wieniawski, Bull, and Sarasate were shaped by the musical characteristics

of their homelands heard in their works.



LIST OF FIGURES.......................................................................................................vii
LIST OF MUSICAL EXAMPLES .............................................................................. viii
Three LeadingViolinists..............................................................................13
THE EUROPEAN MAP .............................................................................20
Dances of a Co-opted Country: Henryk Wieniawski’s Polonaises and
Mazurkas ....................................................................................................20
Ole Bull’s Music and The Norwegian Fiddle...............................................32
Pablo de Sarasate: The Dances of Spain ......................................................39
OF EXOTICISM.........................................................................................59
A Little Bit of Poland: Wieniawski’s Reception ..........................................60
The Norwegian Paganini Abroad.................................................................64
The Spanish Virtuoso Abroad .....................................................................75
Conclusion ..................................................................................................84
BIBLIOGRAPHY .........................................................................................................90



1. Henryk Wieniawski, Polonaise Brillante, op. 4 .....................................................25

2. Henryk Wieniawski, Polonaise Brillante, op. 21 ...................................................26
3. Henryk Wieniawski, Mazurka, op. 19, No. 2, “Le Ménétrier” ...............................30
4. Ole Bull, Et Saeterbesog.......................................................................................34
5. Sarasate’s dances ..................................................................................................41


1. Rubinstein and Wieniawski, Concert Program, New York, October 1, 1872 ...........7
2. Ole Bull, Concert Program, Boston, 1876. ..............................................................9
3. Cartoon of Pablo de Sarasate from La Musica Ilustrada Hispano-Americana
(October 10, 1899)................................................................................................80



1. Characteristic mazurka rhythm..............................................................................23

2 Characteristic polonaise rhythm ............................................................................23
3. Secondary polonaise rhythm .................................................................................24
4. Henryk Wieniawski, Polonaise Brillante, op. 4, mm. 1-8......................................25
5. Polonaise rhythm ..................................................................................................27

6. Henryk Wieniawski, Second Polonaise Brillante, op. 21, mm. 18-22....................27

7. Henryk Wieniawski, “Le Ménétrier,” op. 19, no. 2, mm. 1-11...............................29
8. Henryk Wieniawski, Souvenir de Posen, mm. 109-113 .........................................31
9. Ole Bull, En Saeterbesog, mm. 2-5, clarinet melody .............................................35
10. Ole Bull, En Saeterbesog, mm. 10-13, oboe, horn accompaniment........................36
11. Ole Bull, Et Saeterbesog, mm. 24-34, violin .........................................................36
12. “Faremoslått,” mm. 1-15 ......................................................................................37
13. Second Half of “Eg ser deg ut’for gulggen” ..........................................................38
14. Sarasate, Malagueña, mm. 1-10 ............................................................................44
15. Sarasate, Malagueña, mm. 55-63 ..........................................................................44
16. Sarasate, Playera, mm. 1-7 ...................................................................................46
17. Sarasate, Playera, violin, mm. 14-17.....................................................................47
18. Bolero rhythms in Sarasate, Bolero, op. 30, piano, mm. 1-2, 16-17 .......................48
19. Sarasate, Bolero, op. 30, violin, mm. 13-20...........................................................48
20. Sarasate, Miramar, op. 42, mm. 7-14 ....................................................................49
21. Sarasate, Caprice Basque, op. 24, mm. 9-16 .........................................................51
22. “Jeiki, Jeiki Etchenkuak” .....................................................................................51

23. Sarasate, Muiñera, op. 32, mm. 10-26...................................................................52

24. Sarasate, “Zapateado,” mm. 114-125 ....................................................................54
25. Sarasate, Romanza Andaluza, mm. 1-8..................................................................55
26. Sarasate, Romanza Andaluza, mm. 70-73..............................................................56
27. Sarasate, Serenata Andaluza, mm. 5-9 ..................................................................57
28. Sarasate, Serenata Andaluza, mm. 77-80 ..............................................................57
29. Sarasate, Serenata Andaluza, mm. 207-214...........................................................57




Virtuosity and exoticism are two of Western music’s enduring obsessions. During
the latter half of the nineteenth century, these two cultural preoccupations helped to shape
the careers of some of the greatest violinists of the day. Most international virtuosos were
composers as well as performers, and their audiences expected them to create works for
their own concerts. Drawing on the exoticism and nationalism that influenced the content

of musical repertoire in the European concert scene during this period, three leading vio-
linists chose to create music based on their own cultural heritage and to perform it in such
a way as to portray themselves in accord with the trope of the exotic. Henryk
Wieniawski, Ole Bornemann Bull, and Pablo de Sarasate had individual approaches to
exoticizing their own music, and each embraced exoticism to different degrees, from
Wieniawski’s small nods to his Polish heritage, to Bull’s sometimes political use of Nor-
wegian culture, to Sarasate’s simultaneous embrace and evasion of his Spanish heritage.
Violin virtuosos became a popular part of European musical life during the sev-
enteenth century. With the dazzling popularity of Nicolò Paganini (1782-1840) in the
early nineteenth century, the violinist became even more important to contemporary con-
cert life. After Paganini left the stage, the performers who followed him not only had to
maintain the high level of technical virtuosity he had established but also had to emulate
his prodigious showmanship. Paganini’s popularity was not only due to his peerless tech-
nical facility, but also to his carefully cultivated image as a mysterious, perhaps even
devilish, musician.1 Later virtuosos needed similar means of separating themselves from

1 See Meiko Kawabata, “Virtuosity, the Violin, the Devil… What Really Made Paganini
‘Demonic’?” Current Musicology 83 (2007): 85-108.

their colleagues and rivals, and of creating similarly individualistic personas for them-
selves as performers.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, violinists’ compositions had tradi-
tionally included sonatas and concertos, but in the nineteenth century, their output also
began to include smaller concert pieces: character pieces that showcased a performer’s
range of virtuosic techniques in an entertaining way. These concert works were typically
accompanied either by piano or orchestra, depending on the type of concert and the per-
formance venue. In the 1860s and afterward, violinists typically programmed a wide

range of genres during their concerts. Concert programs frequently consisted of a major
violin concerto, such as that of Mendelssohn or Beethoven, a sonata for violin and piano,
and several shorter works composed by the performer. Virtuoso show pieces were usually
the concert closers used to send the audience home happy and sated. Such pieces also fit
well into the “variety” style of concert that was popular throughout the century, where the
evening’s entertainment would consist of a number of different artists performing various
brief works.
In discussions of violin repertoire, the virtuoso show pieces are often lumped to-
gether as if they were a unified genre. 2 These works, however, actually cover a range of
smaller genres that have yet to be fully recognized or discussed. These works are given
disparate names—“morceau d’salon,” “genre works,” “character pieces,” or “show
pieces”—which can refer to works as brief as a two-minute dance by Sarasate or
Wieniawski, or to works as lengthy and complex as Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen and
Ernest Chausson’s Poème. One of the primary reasons different types of virtuosic pieces
have been grouped under the same (albeit loosely defined) headings is because of their
common stylistic features. All provide a musical vehicle for the violinist to showcase a

2 Within the context of violin repertoire character pieces are usually virtuosic in nature, but in
other instrumental repertoires—notably piano literature—character pieces are not necessarily

wide range of brilliant techniques that would not necessarily be appropriate in the more
formal context of a standard concerto or sonata. These works also share similar forms—
usually ABA, rondo, or theme and variations—that are fairly simple for listeners to
understand and follow, in contrast to the sometimes intricate forms of a nineteenth-
century concerto or sonata. Lastly, these pieces could be used interchangeably in
concerts, allowing for programming flexibility.
The broad catchall category of “character piece” is often linked to different types
of virtuosic works commonly composed by nineteenth-century violinists. The opera fan-

tasy was an especially popular form, as witnessed by the many arrangements of excerpts
from Der Freischütz or Carmen created by various violinists. There were also seemingly
more abstract musical works, such as Romance Without Words by Henryk Wieniawski
(1835-1880), or Allegro de concert by Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881). Other pieces drew
on the popularity of fantastical music, such as La ronde des lutins (The Round of the
Goblins) by Antonio Bazzini (1818-1897), or Vieuxtemps’s Drei Märchen (Three Fairy
Tales) for violin and piano.
A significant portion of show pieces, however, were exotic compositions: works
inspired to some degree by the music of Poland, Hungary, Russia, Spain, England, Scot-
land, Ireland, Cuba, or the United States. Many exotic works were composed as musical
tributes to specific cities or countries by performers undertaking concert tours in those
regions. However, some were composed by virtuosos as a means of publicly celebrating
their own nationality. In the case of Wieniawski, the country was his native Poland.
Likewise, Pablo de Sarasate drew extensively from the culture of his homeland, Spain.
Exotic show pieces fall into two main categories. The most obviously exotic
works were composed to reflect a culture other than the composer’s own that was viewed
as exotic by both composer and audience. Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen, evoking Gypsy cul-
ture, is representative of this category. Show pieces inspired by the music of the com-

poser’s own country of origin, however, could be and often were perceived as exotic by

audiences outside of the composer’s homeland.3 The cultural context of a work’s

performance, therefore, influenced its reception as an exotic piece. Ralph P. Locke ex-

To be sure, defining and valuing the musical culture of one’s own

nation or group may at first sound like the polar opposite of musi-
cal exoticism. But, with the increasingly wide dissemination of
musical works in the nineteenth century, works crossed borders
and found acceptance with players and audiences of very different
backgrounds. What spoke of “home” to a work’s original audience
spoke of “elsewhere” to audiences in other lands.4
Seen through the lens of performance context, the exoticism of many of Wieniawski’s,

Bull’s, and Sarasate’s works becomes clear. For example, Sarasate’s Spanish dances were
not composed chiefly for performance in Spain, but rather for audiences across Europe
and North America. The centrality of these works in Sarasate’s repertoire helped the vio-
linist to establish himself specifically as a Spanish virtuoso. By combining the appeal of
the exotic with the already attractive image of the instrumental virtuoso, nineteenth-cen-
tury violinists could build audience rapport and establish an individual persona distinct
from other performers.
Music of the nineteenth century, of course, was influenced by the rise of nation-
alism, with its corollary expression in the arts, and in music particularly. Nationalism and
exoticism are not necessarily mutually exclusive musical tropes. Locke writes: “When
folk or nationally tinged works of Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Grieg, or Albéniz are performed
elsewhere than in the composer’s native land, they are often received—that is, they func-

3 There is a third category of show pieces that had potentially exotic connotations: works created
for a particular local audience, but then performed outside that context. Thus Henri Vieuxtemps’
show piece Souvenir d’Amérique, on ‘Yankee Doodle’ (1845) was not exotic when performed
during his American tour, but would have become exotic if performed in a European country.
Wieniawski’s Souvenir de Moscou is another example of this type of a potentially exotic show
4 Ralph P. Locke, Musical Exoticism: Images and Reflections (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2009), 133.

tion in musical life—as exotic….”5 What is true for a work by Chopin or Tchaikovsky is
equally true of works by violin virtuosos.
When exoticism is spoken of in regard to Western art music, it is often perceived
as pertaining predominately to the lands and peoples East of central Europe, and occa-
sionally South.6 Musical works that exoticize Turkish, Indian, Spanish, Gypsy (Romany),
or Japanese cultures (to name a few) are frequently presented as examples of nineteenth-
century exoticism. With the exception of the Spanish and Romany cultures, none of these
cultures are of European origin. Thus, musicological research on exoticism has focused

primarily on the more distant or culturally distinct examples of exoticism, overlooking

the exotic function of music from places such as Poland and Norway in the context of
nineteenth-century concert life.7 Distinct cultures within Europe, however, could be and
were perceived as exotic by members of other European nationalities.
Conflation of nationalistic and exotic aspects is present in the works to be exam-
ined here. Wieniawski, Bull, and Sarasate each came from a marginalized European
country. Poland had been swallowed by Russia, Prussia, and the Austrian empire. Nor-
way was under the control of Sweden. Spain had lost virtually all of the considerable
power it had wielded when it had an empire in the New World. From the perspective of
the powerful countries of England, France, and the Germanic lands, these countries
formed the borderlands of Europe, or in Parakilas’ words: “… a cultural margin… be-
tween themselves and the utterly alien cultures beyond Europe.”8 To audiences from

5 Locke, Musical Exoticism, 27.

6 Edward Said’s seminal work Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979) has influenced
much of the current musicological discussion of exoticism.
7 Locke provides an extensive overview of the concept of musical exoticism and its use in
musicological and music theory research in the first two chapters of Musical Exoticism.
8 James Parakilas, “How Spain Got A Soul,” in The Exotic in Western Music, ed. Jonathan
Bellman (Boston: Northeastern University Press), 138.

more politically powerful and culturally central nations, Norway, Poland, and Spain—
and the composers who came from them—could be simultaneously exotic and European.
Violinists Henryk Wieniawski, Ole Bull, and Pablo de Sarasate all had extensive
performing careers. Ole Bull toured widely in Europe and North America between 1834
and his death in 1880, receiving an especially warm welcome in the United States as
many new immigrants from Norway made their homes in the New World. Henryk
Wieniawski was born in Warsaw and also received some of his early musical training
there before moving to Paris in 1843 to study violin at the Paris Conservatoire. His early

tours as a concert violinist in the 1850s were primarily in eastern European countries and
included a warm reception in St. Petersburg. Once his reputation was firmly established,
he toured extensively in North America, England, Germany, France, and other European
countries.9 Sarasate, too, trained at the Paris Conservatoire, and undertook tours that cov-
ered England, France, Germany, and North America during a career that spanned more
than four decades, from the 1860s through the earliest years of the twentieth century.10
All three violinists took part in variety concerts, which were common in the first
half of the nineteenth century. Pianists and singers often headed a party of performers,
with instrumental musicians such as violinists, cellists, or trumpeters rounding out the
program. Each performer would typically play two or three short selections during their
section of the concert. As late as 1872-73, Anton Rubinstein and Henryk Wieniawski’s
tour of the United States featured concerts of this type. Figure 1, a concert program from
a performance in New York City in October 1872 demonstrates the typical choice of rep-
ertoire. A piece for orchestra opened the concert, followed by a major concerto for the

9 Boris Schwarz and Zofia Chechlinska, “Wieniawski: (1) Henryk Wieniawski,” Grove Music
Online,, accessed 10 October 2009.
10 Boris Schwarz and Robin Stowell, “Sarasate (y Navascuéz), Pablo (Martín Melitón) de,”
Grove Music Online,, accessed 10 October 2009.

Figure 1. Rubinstein and Wieniawski, Concert Program, New York, October 1, 1872

Overture, “Egmont” Beethoven

Concerto, G Major, No. 3 Rubinstein
Anton Rubinstein
Polacca, “Kommt Ein Schlanker Bursch gegangen,”
Freischütz Weber
“Il Pirata,” fantaisie for Violin Ernst
Henri Wieniawski


Duet, Per vaili, per hosehi Blangini

Mlles. Liebhard and Ormeny
a. Nocturne Field
b. Menuet, B Minor Schubert
c. Ballade, G Minor Chopin
Anton Rubinstein
Airs Russes H. Wieniawski
Henri Wieniawski
Aria, from “Saffo” Pacini
Mlle Louise Ormeny
Songs, without words, A flat, A minor, B major
March, Midsummer Night’s Dream Mendelssohn
Anton Rubinstein
Source: “Music In New York—Italian Opera—Rubinstein.” Dwight’s Journal of Music,
October 19, 1872.

pianist and several solo pieces for the violinist on the first half. On the second half of the
concert, vocalists sang several selections, the pianist played several smaller pieces, and
the violinist played a bravura solo. With the exception of the Beethoven overture, the
Ballade by Chopin and the Songs Without Words by Mendelssohn, few pieces included
on this program would be considered standard repertoire today.11
Ole Bull, even more than Wieniawski, used the variety program as his primary
concert vehicle. As with the Rubinstein/Wieniawski concert above, the concerts that Bull
headlined usually featured piano, violin, and voice in the same event, and sometimes or-

chestra as well (see Figure 2, a program from a concert in Boston’s Music Hall on De-
cember 8, 1876). Within Bull’s touring party, the vocalists had top billing alongside the
violinist, and the pianist was primarily an accompanist, though he did perform as a soloist
on the concerts. In this particular concert, Bull included Norwegian works along with his
piece To The Memory of Washington, his own rendition of Carnival de Venice (so far re-
moved from Paganini’s original that Paganini’s name no longer appears as the composer)
and a set of improvisations on themes suggested by the audience. The Swedish Quartette
paid homage to the now elderly violinist by singing his “Saetergjentens’ Söndag.”
Though the variety concert had started to lose cultural ground by the middle of the cen-
tury, Bull actively performed these types of concerts well into the 1870s.
During the nineteenth century, there was a major shift in how concerts were orga-
nized.12 The popularity of the variety concert waned over the course of the century, and
the decline of the variety concert was part of what William Weber has referred to as “the
great transformation of musical taste.” Weber explains:

11 The selections by Schubert and Weber, as well as Mendelssohn’s “March,” are standard
repertoire today in their original forms, but not in the arrangements performed on this concert.
12 William Weber, The Great Transformation of Musical Taste: Concert Programming From
Haydn to Brahms (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 39, 85.

Figure 2. Ole Bull, Concert Program, Boston, 1876.

Overture, “Raymond” A. Thomas

To The Memory Of Washington Ole Bull
Introduction (Grave), Sorrow and Woe—Allegro agitato, Rising against Oppression—Battle, “God Save
the King!” and “Yankee Doodle!” alternately heard—Honor to the Fallen Heroes—(Choral)—Reception
of the Victorious Federals, and March in Honor of Washington—Finale.
Ole Bull
Neckrosen (The Water Flower) Abe
Swedish National Songs
Swedish Ladies Vocal Quartette
Bridal March, from “Norse Peasant Life.” Edward Grieg
Wm. H. Sherwood
The Mountains of Norway Ole Bull
Ole Bull


Swedish Wedding March Sedermann

Carnival of Venice Ole Bull
Ole Bull
Saetergjenten’s Söndag Ole Bull
Serenade Sir H. Bishop
Swedish Ladies Vocal Quartette
Improvisations Upon Familiar Melodies
(Themes to be suggested and sent in by the Audience.)
Ole Bull
March, “Athalie” Mendelssohn

Source: American Broadsides and Ephemera, Series 1, no. 21766.


By the middle of the nineteenth century many more options were

available to listeners, leading some to demand a much higher order
of musical taste and to be intolerant toward those who did not
share that goal…. Idealists… saw no other choice because they
feared that ballads and music halls were going to overwhelm the
world of serious music.13
Unlike singers, the virtuoso violinists may not have been performing in music halls or
performing popular ballads, but the critics’ response to their choice of repertoire often
demonstrated a concern that the virtuosos’ musical selections represented a cheapening of
their musical talents and catered to the lowest common denominator in the audience. The
variety concert was perceived by the musical elite to be both a less serious and a less

valid form of musical entertainment than other types of concerts.

What options were there, then, for the performer who did not desire to participate
in variety concerts? In the 1860s and 1870s there was a movement toward the solo recital,
especially among pianists; one artist would perform an entire concert without interludes
from other musicians.14 These concerts could, and as the century progressed often did,
include several multi-movement works of a serious type. Solo concerts pleased musical
idealists, but ran the danger of boring the audience. In his study of the concert culture of
pianists during this time period, Kenneth Hamilton notes that, “There were complaints at
least up to the end of the nineteenth century about the monotony of concerts featuring
only one performer….”15 Thus musicians had to vary the types of works even within the
solo concert. Hamilton states that the “juxtapositions of serious and trivial pieces in a va-
riety of genres was… an attempt to provide something for everyone.”16

13 Weber, The Great Transformation of Musical Taste, 39.

14 Kenneth Hamilton, After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance (New
York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 58.
15 Ibid.. 59.

16 Ibid., 38.

The need for variety helps to explain why the short bravura works composed by
virtuosos such as Wieniawski or Sarasate were such a popular part of concerts. These
pieces were not programmed as “serious” music in the same way that a Beethoven sym-
phony or Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto would be programmed. The bravura pieces
were there primarily to please the audience, a task for which they were admirably suited.
Critics often ignored these types of compositions in their concert reviews, because the
pieces did not exist for the purpose of being high art. When virtuoso pieces were per-
formed as part of a variety concert, they were part of a culturally less important milieu.

When they were performed as part of a more serious concert—such as when Sarasate
played his Spanish Dances on the second half of a concert on which he had already per-
formed Mendelssohn’s Concerto—the pieces could be overlooked yet again because they
were the artist’s attempt to engage everyone in the audience, no matter their degree of
musical sophistication. Articles describing concerts by Sarasate or Wieniawski often
mentioned the major concerto and sonata performed by name, but might or might not
mention the show pieces. Many reviews of Sarasate’s London concerts, for instance, have
warm praise for his technique, but often speak dismissively or even derisively of the
show pieces with which the virtuoso ended his concerts. The delight of the public (often
mentioned in these reviews) was certainly not enough to encourage the press to be adu-
latory in their comments about the show pieces. The dismissive attitude towards these
works was a reflection of the values of the changing musical culture of the day.
Many of the show pieces composed by the nineteenth-century virtuosi remain a
central part of the violin repertoire. Though they are rarely heard played by soloists in the
context of orchestra concerts, they are frequently programmed on recitals and concerts in
more intimate venues. Many of the leading violinists of the past few years have put out
recordings of these works.17 Nonetheless, as central as these works have been to the

17 For example: Rachel Barton Pine, Homage to Pablo de Sarasate, with Samuel Sanders
[piano], Dorian DOR-90183, 1994; Itzhak Perlman, A La Carte, with The Abbey Road Ensemble,

experience of both violinists and audiences through the years, they are still largely over-
looked by critics and scholars.
Disregard for the violin’s character pieces occurs even in literature specifically
about violin repertoire. In The Cambridge Companion to the Violin, there are separate
chapters for the concerto and the sonata. However, show pieces are mentioned in the
chapter titled “Other Solo Repertory,” which also includes unaccompanied violin works
and twentieth-century innovations of genre.18 The space specifically devoted to the entire
show piece genre is a mere two and a half pages. Similar neglect is also obvious in the

Grove Music Online’s “Violin” article. The layout of the violin article is very similar to
that of the Cambridge Companion (not surprisingly, considering that Robin Stowell
wrote and edited both), and again the show pieces are given little consideration.19
New scholarship on nineteenth-century concert repertoire and behavior has re-
cently been published, largely focusing on the piano repertoire. Kenneth Hamilton’s After
the Golden Age presents an in-depth perspective on the performance practices of and
audience expectations for piano virtuosos from Franz Liszt to Anton Rubinstein.20 Wil-
liam Weber has written several works focusing on programming and concert manage-
ment in the nineteenth century.21 The role of exoticism in Western music has been

conducted by Lawrence Foster, EMI Classics 5 55475 2, 1995; Maxim Vengerov, Vengerov, with
Ian Brown, EMI Classics 5579162, 2004; and Joshua Bell, Violin Favorites and Virtuoso
Showpieces, Decca B0004205-02, 2005.
18 Robin Stowell, “Other Solo Repertory,” The Cambridge Companion to the Violin, ed. Robin
Stowell (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 194-209.
19 Robin Stowell, “Violin: The Instrument, its Technique and its Repertory: After 1820,” Grove
Music Online,, accessed 10 October 2009.
20 As cited in note 9.

21 William Weber, Music and the Middle Class: the Social Structure of Concert Life in London,
Paris and Vienna (New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers, 1975); The Musician as
Entrepreneur, 1700-1914: Managers, Charlatans, and Idealists (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 2004); and The Great Transformation of Musical Taste.

discussed in many articles and books, notably The Exotic in Western Music, edited by
Jonathan Bellman, and Musical Exoticism: Images and Reflections by Ralph P. Locke.22
However, these writings primarily examine the music and concert culture of nineteenth-
century orchestras and pianists. The music and personas of the violin virtuosos of the
latter half of the nineteenth century, have yet to receive much scholarly attention. Dis-
sertations about violinists such as Vieuxtemps or Wieniawski tend either to focus on one
major work or to consist of a broad life-and-works style study; they do not examine the
concert culture surrounding the violin. Major musicological journals are generally devoid

of articles about virtuoso violin concert pieces. Publications such as Strad and American
String Teacher sometimes include brief articles about various concert pieces, but these
are not peer-reviewed and rarely contain in-depth analyses. Serious study of the music
and the contemporary concert culture of Romantic-era violinists will lead to a more com-
plete picture of nineteenth century concert life.

Three Leading Violinists

The Franco-Belgian school of violin playing, as represented by the Paris Conser-
vatoire, was in its ascendance during the nineteenth century. By the latter half of the
century, the school combined the technical and musical rigors inherited from Giovanni
Battista Viotti (1755-1824) and his disciples—Pierre Baillot, Pierre Rode, and Rodolphe
Kreutzer—with some of the bravura violin techniques inspired by Nicolò Paganini.23
Henryk Wieniawski and Pablo de Sarasate were students at the Paris Conservatoire, and
thus were steeped in the Franco-Belgian approach to the violin. The compositions they

22 Jonathan Bellman, ed., The Exotic in Western Music (Boston: Northeastern University Press,
1998), and Locke, Musical Exoticism.
23 Robin Stowell, “The Diabolus in Musica and Paganini Redivivus Phenomena, with Thoughts
on Their Relevance to the ‘German Paganini’ [August Wilhelmj (1845-1908)],” in Nicolò
Paganini: Diabolus in Musica, ed. by Andrea Barizza and Fulvia Morabito (Turnhout: Brepols,
2009), 8-9.

based on their own cultures also reflected the school’s aesthetic. Ole Bull, while he never
attended the Conservatoire, spent significant time in Paris, and his approach to assimilat-
ing the virtuosity of Paganini into his own playing style seemingly had much more in
common with the Franco-Belgian school than with the Germanic style of violinists such
as Ludwig Spohr.
Of the three violinists covered in this paper, Henryk Wieniawski is the violinist
whose use of exoticism is the most subtle. He and his brother, Josef, were born in the
Russian-dominated sector of Poland and were sent to Paris as young boys to study violin

and piano respectively. Consequently, Henryk was at least as familiar with Parisian cul-
ture as he was with his own Polish milieu. While some Poles immigrated to Paris as po-
litical refugees from the oppression of the Russian, Austrian, and Prussian domination of
Poland, the Wieniawski brothers came for musical education, and as adults they kept
their distance from political controversy.
Wieniawski composed almost exclusively music for solo violin with orchestra or
piano. His two largest works are the Violin Concertos, No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, op. 14 (c.
1853) and No. 2 in D Minor, op. 22 (1862). The majority of his other compositions con-
sists of short bravura pieces. Among these are pieces inspired by Polish music: the early
Souvenir de Posen, op. 3 (1853), Wieniawski’s first published mazurka, the Polonaise
No.1 in D Major, op. 4 (1852), the Two Mazurkas, op. 12 (1853/54), and the Polonaise
brillante No. 2 in A Major, op. 21 (1875). His other short pieces include Lègende, op. 17
(1860), which was one of the works which he performed most often, several composi-
tions inspired by Russia (Le carnaval russe, op. 11 [1853], Souvenir de Moscou op. 6
[1853], and an unpublished Variations on the Russian National Anthem), as well as his
popular Fantasie brillante on themes from Gounod’s Faust, op. 20 (1868). He also com-
posed ten etudes for the violin under the title of L’ecole moderne.24

24 Boris Schwarz and Zofia Chechlinska, “Wieniawski: (1) Henryk Wieniawski,” Grove Music
Online,, accessed 10 October 2009.

Polonaises and mazurkas, such as the ones that Wieniawski composed, were per-
ceived by Europeans as Polish, especially in light of Polish pianist Frédéric Chopin’s
many polonaises and mazurkas. Wieniawski’s composition of Polish dances, however,
was not necessarily a political statement. Polonaises were popular at the Russian court
and were occasionally composed by Russian composers; mazurkas were also absorbed
into Russian musical culture.25 So Wieniawski’s use of the polonaise and mazurka forms
does not necessarily indicate that he was overtly expressing Polish nationalism. As an
adult performer, Wieniawski toured actively in Russia and also lived and taught there for

several years, a career choice that would have been unavailable to him had he become
involved in Polish nationalistic politics. Wieniawski’s composition of polonaises and ma-
zurkas do indicate an appreciation of his birth culture, but he was a cosmopolitan violinist
at home in the French and Russian cultures as well.
Ole Bull’s use of his own cultural heritage was more blatant and recognizably po-
litical than Wieniawski’s. During Bull’s lifetime, the country of Norway did not have po-
litical independence, but rather was under the control of Sweden. Bull was vocally
supportive of Norwegian independence throughout his lifetime and sometimes took part
in political happenings in Norway.26 He also had many close ties to the immigrant
Norwegian communities in the United States, and he founded the idealistic but unsuc-
cessful Norwegian colony of Oleana in Pennsylvania (1852-53). Especially during his
later American tours and after his marriage to a young American woman in 1870, Bull’s
Norwegian heritage was made much of by the American press, including those in the re-
gions of Minnesota and Wisconsin, where there were large Norwegian émigré

25 Stephen Downes, “Polonaise” and “Mazurka,” Grove Music Online,, accessed 10 October 2009.
26 Haugen and Cai have documented Bull’s combination of musical and political activity
throughout their biography. See especially Chapter 11, “Norwegian Theater and Henrik Ibsen
(1848-1852),” 102-114.

Bull received his first musical training in Norway and, as mentioned previously,
never took classes at the Paris Conservatoire. However, he did spend a significant amount
of time in Paris at the beginning of his career, and his approach to virtuosity had more in
common with the Franco-Belgian school than with that of the Germanic violinists such as
Ludwig Spohr or Joseph Joachim. As did Sarasate and Wieniawski, Bull sought ways to
incorporate a Paganini-esque virtuosity into his own playing style. He also included in his
performance repertoire works inspired by traditional Norwegian fiddling, either fiddle
tunes which Bull arranged for himself, or newly composed music in the style of Norwe-

gian fiddle music.

Einar Haugen states that Bull’s “Norwegian works were never the mainstay of his
professional existence and concert giving.”27 This is true, as far as it goes. Bull’s most
frequently performed work seems to have been his Polacca guerriera, and variations on
works by Paganini as well as country-specific pieces also formed an important part of his
repertoire.28 Bull’s eclectic choice of repertoire does not undermine, however, the impor-
tance of his ethnicity as part of his entire public person. His identity as a Norwegian, or
more generally a Northerner, is repeatedly mentioned in newspaper articles about his
concerts. He wrote a number of works inspired by his homeland, including Souvenirs de
Norvège (1832-33), Nordmanneens heimlengt (1839), Lørdagskveld på saetren (Saturday
Night in the Mountain Pasture 1859), and Et Saeterbesog.
Ole Bull was a prolific composer for his own instrument, but many of his works
have not survived to the present day. Because he was influenced by the legacy of Pagan-
ini, he primarily composed shorter pieces that incorporated bravura virtuosity. He did
compose several works titled “Concerto” (such as the 1837 Concerto Irlandias [Farewell

27 Einar Ingvald Haugen and Camilla Cai, Ole Bull: Norway’s Romantic Musician and
Cosmopolitan Patriot (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993), 268.
28 Ibid., 233, 251.

to Ireland] and the 1841 Concerto romantico), but these did not necessarily exhibit the
concerto form of a typical solo concerto. His Violin Concerto in E Minor (1841) has the
three movements in standard concerto form, but the first movement is more a medley of
different themes and virtuosic passages than a traditional sonata-form first movement.
Bull’s popular Polacca guerriera was composed in Italy in 1834 and was probably in-
spired by an unsuccessful Polish uprising that had happened a few years’ prior.29 He of-
ten composed music related to the countries that he visited, such as Niagara (1844) and
Washingtons minde (Memories of Washington, 1845) composed for his tour of the United

States, the Hommage a Moscou (1869) and Nattergalen: Fantasia on Russian Folksong
(1867), and Recurerdos de Habana (1844).
In some ways Pablo de Sarasate, chronologically the latest of the violinists ex-
amined here, had the most complicated relationship with exoticism. James Parakilas, in
his article “How Spain Got A Soul,” notes that Sarasate wrote his significant Spanish
compositions only after Eduard Lalo wrote Symphonie espagnole for him.30 Sarasate,
like Wieniawski before him, had come to the Paris Conservatoire at a young age and was
at least as much Parisian as he was Spanish.31 While Ole Bull had a heritage of Norwe-
gian folk virtuosity on which to draw for his nationalism and Wieniawski could emulate
the virtuosic nationalism of Chopin, there was no corresponding tradition of virtuosic
Spanish violin playing. Parakilas writes: “’Spanish’ had not particularly meant ‘virtuosic’
in instrumental music before Sarasate, except perhaps in the music for guitar….”32 To an
extent, Lalo and Sarasate invented Spanish violin virtuosity.33

29 Ibid., 34.

30 Parakilas, “How Spain Got A Soul,” 162.

31 Grange Woolley, “Pablo de Sarasate: His Historical Significance,” Music & Letters 36 (1955):
32 Parakilas, “How Spain Got a Soul,” 161.

33 Ibid.

However, Sarasate did not seem to want to be viewed as purely a Spanish virtuoso
musician. Throughout his career, he programmed serious violin concertos (e.g., those of
Beethoven and Mendelssohn) and later in his career even performed J. S. Bach’s sona-
tas.34 Sarasate was often portrayed in the press as the antithesis of Joseph Joachim, the
most serious of the violin virtuosos. George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Joachim is famous for
the austerity of his repertoire. He will play nothing meretricious; he stands inflexibly by
the classics; and will [have] none of your Sarasate dance tunes and national airs.”35
Sarasate did work to keep “serious” music as part of his concert repertoire (something

Ole Bull, with his penchant for variety concerts, certainly never did). He was also both
the recipient and champion of many works by contemporary European composers, in-
cluding those by Camille Saint-Saëns (the Concertos No. 1 and No. 3 and Introduction
and Rondo Capriccioso), Max Bruch (Concerto No. 2 and Scottish Fantasy), Henryk
Wieniawski (Concerto No. 2), and the Scottish composer, Sir Alexander Campbell
MacKenzie (Violin Concerto and Pibroch Suite).
Perhaps it was the wealth of music composed for him that caused Sarasate to con-
fine his own compositions primarily to smaller works. Unlike either Wieniawski or Bull,
Sarasate never wrote a violin concerto for himself. (Of course, neither Wieniawski nor
Bull had inspired composers to create over a half dozen concertos for them.) It is difficult
to speculate if perhaps Sarasate may have felt his compositional skills were not up to the
challenge of larger forms, or if he was merely too busy performing to compose more than
short works. Whatever Sarasate’s reasons were for confining himself to smaller forms,
his compositional output is made up primarily of opera fantasies, Spanish dances, and
exotic works such as his famous, gypsy-inspired Zigeunerweisen.

34 “Señor Sarasate’s Concert,” Times (London), June 3, 1895, p. 10.

35 George Bernard Shaw, London Music in 1888-89 as Heard By Corno de Bassetto (New York:
Dodd, Mead & Company, 1937), 335.

There are two significant ways to examine what roles exoticism and nationalism
played in the lives of these three violinist-composers. We can consider their music to find
evidence of musical characteristics specific to certain cultures. We can also examine con-
cert reviews and other primary sources that give clues to the reception of these violinists,
to see what role their ethnicity and their repertoire played in the public’s perception of
them. As we shall see, each violinist had a different relationship to his own culture and
had an individual approach to presenting himself to his audience as an exotic virtuoso.



Wieniawski, Bull, and Sarasate’s extensive and complex international careers pre-
sented challenges to the men as composers. Audiences expected to hear virtuosos per-
form their own compositions in concert. Such works needed to be accessible to a wide
variety of audiences across the globe while also showcasing the virtuoso’s individual per-
sonality and technical strengths as a violinist. The overall simplicity of form evident in

the three composers’ character pieces reflects the purpose of the genre: easily under-
standable music that emphasized a player’s virtuosity. The various ways in which
Wieniawski, Bull, and Sarasate incorporated characteristics from the music of their
homelands in their works demonstrate the differences in their personas as violinists:
Wieniawski the urbane violinist, Bull the seemingly down-to-earth performer of variety
shows, and Sarasate the romantic black-haired Spanish virtuoso.

Dances of a Co-opted Country: Henryk Wieniawski’s

Polonaises and Mazurkas
Wieniawski’s exotic compositions are represented primarily by two closely re-
lated styles: the polonaise and the mazurka. The polonaise had been a common instru-
mental dance for years before Wieniawski created his additions to the genre.36 According
to Jeffery Kallberg, the mazurka had only recently gained prominence a few decades be-
fore Wieniawski’s compositions, largely as a result of Chopin’s prolific contributions to
this dance type.37 These two traditional Polish dances represented two classes of Polish

36 Jeffery Kallberg, “Hearing Poland: Chopin and Nationalism,” in Nineteenth-Century Piano

Music, ed. by R. Larry Todd (New York: G. Schirmer, 1990), 223, and Downes, “Polonaise,”
Grove Music Online.
37 Kallberg, “Hearing Poland,” 223. Stephen Downes, in the Grove article about the mazurka,
notes that the dance was already popular in Paris before Chopin’s arrival, but Kallberg’s

culture: the polonaise was indicative of the aristocracy, while the mazurka was more
rooted in the peasant tradition.38
By the middle of the nineteenth century, Polish dances were being produced by
composers across Europe; they were particularly popular in France and Russia, two
countries with close political and social ties to Poland.39 The adoption of these dances by
musicians across the continent could be viewed as separation of the polonaise and ma-
zurka from their ethnic roots, weakening their viability as expressions of ethnic identity.
In the case of the polonaise, the dance had been known by the French term since the mid-

eighteenth century, so it did not even have a commonly recognized Polish name.40 Ste-
phen Downes has noted that the polonaise was also extremely popular at the Russian
court during the nineteenth century, and it does not appear that Russians perceived the
polonaise as a symbol of a Polish independence movement.41
Nevertheless, Poland’s political assimilation by Russia during this period influ-
enced the perception of these dances within Poland, as well as within the Polish exile
community abroad, as evidenced by the contemporary reception of Chopin’s music. The
political entity of Poland had ceased to exist in 1792; portions of its land were swallowed
by Prussia and Austria, and the largest portion was absorbed by Russia. During the Na-
poleonic wars in the early nineteenth century, Poles had hoped Napoleon would help Po-
land regain its sovereignty, but this never came to pass. With the subjugation of the Pol-
ish state, the polonaise became more important to Poles as a statement of national iden-

emphasis seems to be purely on instrumental versions not intended for dancing; Wieniawski’s
mazurkas would certainly fit that.
38 Kallberg, “Hearing Poland,” 223.

39 Downes, “Polonaise” and “Mazurka,” Grove Music Online.

40 Downes, “Polonaise.”

41 Ibid.

tity.42 Because the polonaise and the mazurka referred to a distinctly Polish culture, after
a politically defined Poland had ceased to exist, these characteristic dances stood for
Polish identity.
Wieniawski’s French musical training and resulting Parisian tastes influenced his
compositional style more than Polish musical mores. Zofia Chechlinska has described the
relative importance of his Polish heritage:

[Wieniawski] was in constant contact with all the leading Euro-

pean musicians of the day, including Polish musicians, although
the latter did not provide him with any particular kind of musical
environment. Thus, the Polish musical world formed neither his
violin playing (his art as a performer drew from the whole of
European violin tradition), nor particularly his identity as a musi-
cian or a person, with the obvious exception of his family home.43
Unlike Frédéric Chopin, Wieniawski’s name was never linked to a political stand on the
importance of Polish independence. Like Chopin, however, Wieniawski did make use of
the mazurka as well as the polonaise. It is doubtful that the composer himself had a clear
nationalistic agenda in creating these dances, particularly in view of his employment at
the court of the czar and at the conservatory in St. Petersburg, Russia, between the years
of 1860 and 1872. Nevertheless, polonaises and mazurkas are virtually the only ethni-
cally-influenced music in his oeuvre. Wieniawski did write two Russian-influenced
works in 1853, during his first Russian tour. In contrast, he composed eight works based
on Polish dances, spread out over the course of his entire career. If the music of his
homeland had not been significant to him, there would be no reason for him to keep re-
turning to it and to choose to compose in these dance forms.
Polonaises and mazurkas are similar in that both have triple meter and a moderate
to lively tempo, such that it is not always easy to distinguish a polonaise from a mazurka,

42 Zofia Chechlinska, “Henryk Wieniawski and Polish Musical Culture of the 19th Century,” in
Henryk Wieniawski: Composer and Virtuoso in the Musical Culture of the 19th and 20th
Centuries,” ed. Maciej Jablonski and Danuta Jasinska (Poznan, Poland: Rhytmos, 2001), 17.
43 Ibid., 13.

or vice versa, without reference to a piece’s specific title. There are a few stylistic differ-
ences, however. The mazurka’s characteristic rhythm is two eighth notes followed by two
quarter notes, though there are many variations on this basic rhythm (see Example 1).44

Example 1. Characteristic mazurka rhythm

The polonaise’s characteristic rhythm consists of an eighth note and two sixteenth
notes in the first beat of the measure, with eighth notes in the last two beats of the meas-
ure (see Example 2).45 Another commonly-found rhythm is an eighth note followed by a
quarter note and three eighth notes, forming a distinctive syncopation over the second
beat of the measure (see Example 3).

Example 2. Characteristic polonaise rhythm

44 Downes, “Mazurka.”

45 Downes, “Polonaise.”

Example 3. Secondary polonaise rhythm

One notable difference between the two dances is that mazurkas tend to have less
rhythmic motion on the second and third beats, while polonaises typically feature more
rhythmic motion on the third beat (and sometimes on the second beat as well), leading
into the downbeat of the next measure. These tendencies occur in the dances of both
Chopin and Wieniawski. However, there are numerous exceptions within various sections
of the dances, depending on the virtuosic technique or bravura style being employed at
the time.
Wieniawski’s first polonaise for violin and piano, the Polonaise Brillante, op. 4
(published in 1853), has the dance’s typical rhythmic patterns—triple meter with six-
teenth notes on the second half of beat one, leading to beat two—underlying its metrical
structure. It is primarily the polonaise rhythm and the title that suggest this work’s mini-
mal exotic flair. However, as Chechlinska has noted, Wieniawski rarely experimented
with unusual harmonic progressions or divergent musical forms.46 The bravura character
of the composition is evident from the first notes of the violin solo: a disjunct melody
with two-octave leaps and ornamental grace notes (see Example 4). The piece as a whole
largely consists of expected virtuosic techniques: octaves, triple- and quadruple-stop
chords, harmonics, and rapid double-stop passages. The polonaise is in rondo form, and
besides a few side trips to the key of B minor, stays solidly in D major through most of
the piece (see Table 1). In the C section, which is in B minor, the polonaise rhythm is
heard consistently throughout the piano part. The dotted rhythm present in the first and

46 Chechlinska, “Henryk Wieniawski,” 15.


third measures of the piece, part of the piano introduction before the violin’s entrance,
harks back to the processional and military styles of earlier polonaises (see Example 4).

Table 1. Henryk Wieniawski, Polonaise Brillante, op. 4

A B A A-Trans C A D Trans A Coda

Key D b D D! b D D ! D D

Mm. 1-20 21-30 31-38 39-62 63-94 95-102 103-18 119-33 134-39 140-55

Example 4. Henryk Wieniawski, Polonaise Brillante, op. 4, mm. 1-8


Wieniawski’s second polonaise, Polonaise Brillante, op. 21 (published circa

1875), is a more complex composition, both rhythmically and formally. Its form is closer
to ternary, rather than the rondo form of the earlier polonaise (see Table 2). It is also
more adventurous tonally. Rather than staying only in the home key and the relative mi-
nor, as in op. 4, op. 21 also ventures into the key area of the mediant. The harmonic lan-
guage is still well within the boundaries of conservative musical language of the time, but
it is more complex than that of the first polonaise.

Table 2. Henryk Wieniawski, Polonaise Brillante, op. 21

Intro A B A C D C B A Coda

Key E A E A F F F e A~~~ A

Mm. 1-17 18-50 51-95 96-117 118-60 161-80 181-214 215-23 224-43 244-67

Another complex characteristic of this polonaise is its treatment of the polonaise

rhythm. In the first polonaise, the basic polonaise rhythm frequently occurred in the piano
part (see Example 2 above, also the top line of Example 5 below). In the op. 21 Polo-
naise, the rhythmic contour that is closest to that of the expected polonaise figure is a

variation of the original in the violin solo (see Example 5). Beyond the ornamental al-
teration of the polonaise rhythm, the extreme bravura nature of this piece obscures many
of the dance characteristics commonly associated with the polonaise.
Martial dotted rhythms are also present in this work, as in the earlier polonaise;
dotted sixteenth and thirty-second note figures appear in mm. 19 and 20 of the solo violin
part (see Example 6). The characteristic polonaise rhythm shown in Example 3 above is
pervasive in this piece, and can be heard in the piano accompaniment in mm. 19 and 20,
underneath the martial violin rhythms. Overall, Wieniawski has formally, tonally, and

rhythmically expanded the polonaise style from that of his earlier composition, while still
maintaining the many of the traditional characteristics of the polonaise.

Example 5. Polonaise rhythm

Polonaise rhythm

Violin solo, op. 21

Example 6. Henryk Wieniawski, Second Polonaise Brillante, op. 21, mm. 18-22

Wieniawski’s works exhibit another characteristic important to the idea of a Pol-

ish nationalistic style: the juxtaposition of major with sad minor sections, a musical trait
that does not have the same significance to modern listeners as it would have had to
Wieniawski’s contemporaries. Outside of Poland, sadness was often perceived as a cen-
tral aspect of “Polishness” in music, due largely to Franz Liszt’s popular (if highly ques-
tionable) biography of the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin. Maja Trochimczyk notes
that Liszt “established the trope of zal or zalosc [sorrow] as the principle characteristic
permeating Chopin’s personality, his music, and Polish identity in general.”47 Some

nineteenth-century Polish critics disagreed strongly with Liszt’s view. Far from agreeing
that sorrow and melancholy were central to Polish musical character, they instead insisted
that Polish music instead was characterized by “noble energy and strength,” and
“warmth, zest, politeness, goodness, boisterousness, compassion, naturalness, generosity,
elegance.”48 Nevertheless Liszt’s assertions of what constituted Polishness in music were
instrumental in shaping the perceptions of European audience members.
In the case of Wieniawski’s first polonaise, the work opens in a cheerful D major,
but after only twenty measures, a transition to an anxious B minor section with dramatic
multiple-stop chords occurs. After the repetition of the opening D major theme, the key
of B minor returns, this time with a more lyrical and introspective melody. The rapid al-
teration between sections of major and minor tonalities could definitely have been heard
by contemporary listeners as expressing two aspects of Polish character: both the sadness
supposedly inherent in Polish experience and the “goodness and boisterousness” that was
also understood to be part of the national character.

47 Maja Trochimczyk, “Chopin and the ‘Polish Race’: On National Identities and the Chopin
Reception,” in The Age of Chopin: Interdisciplinary Inquiries, ed. Halina Goldberg
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), 288.
48 Ibid.

Wieniawski’s last mazurka, the rondo-form op. 19, No. 2, “Le Ménétrier” (c.
1860), clearly displays the folk elements associated with the mazurka style. The title
“The Fiddler,” immediately sets this work in the realm of countryside music-making. In
the opening few bars, the violinist first plucks open-string fifths, then bows open-string
fifths, in a clear representation of tuning (see Example 7, mm. 1-6). The theme (begin-
ning in m. 7 of Example 7) has a consistent A-string drone, which is also reminiscent of
styles of European fiddle-playing. The violin’s solo is supported by open-fifth chords in
the piano part, reinforcing the rustic nature of this music.

Example 7. Henryk Wieniawski, “Le Ménétrier,” op. 19, no. 2, mm. 1-11

The two contrasting sections of this mazurka are both in the key of G minor (see
Table 3). In keeping with the folk-like character of the mazurka, the melodies are simple,
staying in the middle range of the violin, and are ornamented with modest grace-notes
and trills rather than with bravura gestures. The augmented seconds present in the violin
melody in the B section might nod in the direction of the style hongroise, but the lack of
other bravura techniques indicates that Wieniawski is instead portraying a country fiddler
who is using an almost modal idiom. The simplicity of the minor sections makes sense in
the context of a portrayal of amateur music-making. As a whole this work is not as tech-

nically difficult as either of the polonaises and it reflects its title well.49

Table 3. Henryk Wieniawski, Mazurka, op. 19, No. 2, “Le Ménétrier”

Intro A B A C A

Key n/a D g D g D

Mm. 1-6 7-30 31-62 63-78 79-117 118-39

An earlier mazurka by Wieniawski, Souvenir de Posen (published in 1854), has

the same alternations between major and minor sections, as well as the inclusion of dou-
ble stops with open strings reminiscent of country fiddling. In an otherwise quite ordinary
dance, there are a few brief measures of transition that feature a musical reference to
gypsy fiddling, the style hongrois (see Example 8), in contrast to the country fiddling
heard earlier in the piece. The interval of an augmented second between C-sharp and B-
flat, the decorative dotted rhythms, and the progressively faster note values are all aspects

49 The minor sections, viewed through Liszt’s perspective, could have been heard as reflections
of Polish sorrow.

of the gypsy trope. The indication “suivez le Violon” (“follow the violin”) in the piano
part suggests that the violinist would probably use some kind of rubato or other tempo
fluctuations in these measures, which is also characteristic of style hongrois-inspired
violin music.

Example 8. Henryk Wieniawski, Souvenir de Posen, mm. 109-113

Although Wieniawski’s musical training was much more French than Polish, and
though he never expressed markedly political sentiments, he nevertheless did compose
pieces which reflected his culture of origin. The Polish characteristics of these pieces are

evident in the use of polonaise and mazurka rhythms, the distinction between the more
cultured polonaise and more rustic nature of the mazurka, and the use of major and minor
tonalities to express Polish experience. Since Wieniawski composed only a few ethni-
cally-inspired pieces from outside of Polish culture and composed eight works from
within the culture (nearly a third of his total compositional output), it is not unreasonable
to suppose that these pieces represented his attachment to the music of his homeland.

Ole Bull’s Music and The Norwegian Fiddle

Ole Bull performed a wide variety of pieces during his forty-year career, includ-
ing compositions by Paganini, Beethoven, Mozart, and Spohr. Because Bull was a pro-
lific composer, he often played his own works on his concerts. These included composi-
tions inspired by or based on traditional folk-songs of Norway, Italianate confections,
chamber music, and pieces related to the places where he was traveling. Bull never re-
ceived any formal schooling at the Paris Conservatoire or under the tutelage of the pre-
miere European violinists of the day, but his wide travels in Europe provided a broad

spectrum of musical experiences on which he could draw as a performing artist and com-
Though Bull remained primarily a violinist whose style and repertoire were
rooted in the Western art-music tradition—J. H. Poulson, one of his primary teachers in
Norway, had studied under the notable teacher Giovanni Battista Viotti—he nevertheless
valued the folk tradition.50 Bull was deeply invested in the music of his homeland and
spent time learning to play and participating in the traditional folk music of Norway.51
He grew up hearing slåtts (fiddle tunes) performed by fiddle players around his home-
town of Valestrand.52 Once Bull’s solo career began, he sought out Norwegian folk
musicians to learn the music of his country. Among the musicians from whom Bull
learned his craft was the well-known Hardanger fiddler, Torgeir Augundson (1801-1872).
Bull worked with Augundson several times during the early part of his career, including
in 1831 and 1849, transcribing some of the folk fiddler’s pieces and learning the style.53

50 Nils Grinde, A History of Norwegian Music, trans. by William H. Halverson and Leland B.
Sateren (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991), 136.
51 Haugen and Cai, 205.

52 Ibid.

53 Ibid, 19.

Bull also played melodies back to Augundson using one of his classical violins rather
than a Hardanger fiddle.54 In 1850, the two men put together a series of joint public con-
certs in Bergen, Norway.55 Other significant folk fiddlers whom Bull sought out in order
to learn their repertoire and style included Magne Kleiveland (1805-1892) and Jens
Høgheim (1817-86).56 Bull incorporated folk musical styles into his concerts, improvis-
ing on Norwegian melodies and sometimes performing on a Hardanger fiddle as well as
the standard violin.57
The Hardanger fiddle (or hardingfele) is a central component of Norway’s rich

folk music tradition and has been in use since at least the middle of the seventeenth cen-
tury. It is similar in size and shape to the violin, but in addition to the four fingered
strings, there are strings (varying in number: four was predominant, but some instruments
had five) that run underneath the fingerboard and that vibrate in sympathy with the
bowed strings. The back and front of the instrument are usually more arched than a clas-
sical violin, and performers employ different tunings for particular pieces.58 By Bull’s
time, an abundance of Hardanger fiddle repertoire had developed in diverse parts of
Bull often included fantasias on Norwegian folk-songs in his concert programs.
Unfortunately, these folk-song fantasias have not survived. One frequently-performed
piece Bull composed that was inspired by the music of his homeland was The Mountains

54 Ibid.

55 Ibid., 205.

56 Ibid., 207.

57 Ibid., 208. Traditional Norwegian folk music makes use of both the Hardanger fiddle and the
standard violin/fiddle, with one instrument or the other being more popular in particular sections
of the country.
58 Mary Remnant and Chris Goertzen, “Hardanger Fiddle,” Grove Music Online,, accessed 31 July 2011.

of Norway, originally for solo violin, string quartet, double bass, and flute, but later ar-
ranged for violin and orchestra, and violin and piano; Bull also occasionally performed it
unaccompanied. The work had many alternate titles, including Souvenirs de Norvège and
Norwegian’s Lament for Home.59 Unfortunately only a few orchestral parts are extant
today, and no solo violin part survives.
Of Bull’s Norwegian compositions, the most important extant example is Et
Saeterbesog: A Mountain Vision (1848). Like The Mountains of Norway, Et Saeterbesog
was also performed sometimes with orchestra, sometimes with piano, and sometimes un-

accompanied. It is a medley of several traditional Norwegian folk tunes that also includes
Bull’s “A Herdgirl’s Sunday” (“Saeterjentens Sondag”). “A Herdgirl’s Sunday,” Bull’s
most enduringly popular melody, is often played as a separate composition and has also
been arranged numerous times for different instrumental and vocal combinations.

Table 4. Ole Bull, Et Saeterbesog

Orchestral Solo violin “Eg ser deg “Dem “A Herd- “Aa so sudle
introduction, introduction, ut’for bakvendte girl’s Sun- ho mor paa
with horns unaccompanied gulggen” visa,” ends day” rokkjen sin”
and cuckoo with cuckoo
calls calls

Key a A a-A-a-A a D A

Meter 6/8 6/8 6/8 6/8 4/4 2/4

Mm. 1-23 24-51 52-101 102-124 125-147 148-202

Et Saeterbesog demonstrates the ways in which Bull’s music drew upon both the
Norwegian folk tradition and the pastoral conventions of Western art music. The orches-

59 Haugen and Cai, 260.


tral introduction to Et Saeterbesog immediately sets the pastoral mood for the piece, with
open fifths and octaves in the horns, and a cuckoo call in the clarinet (Example 9). The
oboe, often used in pastoral music, is heard in the tenth measure with a characteristically
folk-like melody (Example 10). Camilla Cai has mentioned the similarity between its
melodic shape, with its rising major second (A-B), followed by the rising motion of a
third (C-E), and that of folk-style melodies composed by fellow-Norwegian Edvard
Grieg.60 The violin enters in measure 24 with the melody that the oboe had played previ-
ously and thus plays the same rising second followed by rising third melodic figure. The

cuckoo call and horns return later in the piece, before the “Herdgirl’s Sunday” melody,
thus creating a sense of cohesion within the musical pastiche.

Example 9. Ole Bull, Et Saeterbesog, mm. 2-5, clarinet melody

The double stops in the opening violin solo music and the passage’s melodic and

rhythmic traits are obviously inspired by Hardanger fiddle music, specifically the gangar,
a Norwegian folk dance in duple time. Fluctuation between duple and triple meter is a
hallmark of gangar melodies.61 Thus the introduction to Et Saeterbesog is notated in 6/8
time, but in measures 30-32 both the bowing and the rhythm indicate a meter of 3/4 (Ex-
ample 11). The presence of two consecutive quarter-note values at the beginning of both

60 Ibid., 262.

61 Jan-Peter Blom and Tellef Kvifte, “On the Problem of Inferential Ambivalence in Musical
Meter,” Ethnomusicology 30 (1986): 491.

measures 30 and 31 alters the clear 6/8 meter created by the previous eighth-note triplet
figures. The hemiola figure creates the alteration between duple and triple meter charac-
teristic of this type of folk music.

Example 10. Ole Bull, Et Saeterbesog, mm. 10-13, oboe, horn accompaniment

Example 11. Ole Bull, Et Saeterbesog, mm. 24-34, violin

Bull’s musical language in the introduction of Et Saeterbesog is decisively Nor-

wegian. The piece’s double-stops, especially the preponderance of perfect fourths and
fifths, are also in the style of Hardanger fiddle playing, in contrast to double-stop pas-

sages from the nineteenth-century Western art music tradition, which tend to emphasize

the intervals of thirds, sixths, and octaves, often played in parallel motion. The double-
stops also form a clear pair of melodies, rather than being primarily decorative or figura-
tive. Bull had his instruments fitted with specially-carved flatter bridges to aid in the
playing and sustaining of the multiple stops, both for performance of Norwegian-inspired
pieces as well as his more Italianate works.62 The traditional Norwegian fiddle tune,
“Faremoslått,” provides a good example of the fiddle style that Bull was imitating. It has
two distinct and relatively independent voices, which move in non-standard counterpoint
with unusual movement to and from dissonances and with an abundance of octaves and

fifths (see Example 12).

Example 12. “Faremoslått,” mm. 1-15 63

62 Haugen and Cai, 214.

63 Simplified excerpt from Norwegian Folk Music Series I: Slåtter for the Harding Fiddle
Volume I Gangarar (Hallingar, Vosserullar) in 6/8 Time, ed. Olav Gurvin (Oslo: Oslo University
Press, 1958), 136-37.

After the introductory material of Et Saeterbesog, the first folk melody, “Eg ser
deg ut’for gulggen” (“I see you outside the window”), is heard.64 The song features two
contrasting characters: a slower, mournful section in A minor is followed by a more
cheerful and sprightly one in A major. The A-major portion of the tune has a similar
shape to that of the opening music in oboe and solo violin, and may have been the inspi-
ration for the introductory music (Examples 11 and 13). The solo violin executes a virtu-
osic cadenza as a transition between the first Norwegian tune and the second: “Den
bakvendte visa” (“The Backwards Song”). The new melody’s A-minor tonality and 6/8

meter connect it to the preceding folk song.

Ole Bull’s own “A Herdgirl’s Sunday” is in 4/4 meter, which provides a needed
contrast with the 6/8 of the rest of the work to this point. Et Saeterbesog ends with the
folk tune “Aa so sudla ho mor paa rokkjen sin” (“And Then Mother is Humming with
Her Spinning Wheel”), in a brisk tempo marked “Halling Moderato.” The halling is an-
other traditional dance performed by Norwegian fiddlers, and the folk song provides a
cheerful, up-tempo ending for this work. On the whole, Et Saeterbesog’s combination of
traditional fiddle tunes and newly-composed material provided an excellent opportunity
for Bull to share his Norwegian heritage in concert.

Example 13. Second Half of “Eg ser deg ut’for gulggen”

64 Haugen and Cai, 262.


In keeping with the performance practices of his day, Bull was adept at improvi-
sation, and would frequently improvise during concerts with double-stop and harmonic
ornamentation of melodies. This also had an impact on his compositions, as he would re-
compose them over the course of the years they remained in his repertoire, as well as
sometimes making alterations during concerts. In his recording of Et Saeterbesog, the
violinist Arve Tellefsen uses extensive sections of harmonics.65 These are not present in
the published score, but given Ole Bull’s love of harmonics and his nineteenth-century
virtuoso’s proclivity to alter a work from performance to performance, Tellefsen’s inter-

pretation is a valid gloss on Bull’s composition.66 Thus Tellefsen’s decision to include

harmonics in his performance is true to the spirit of Ole Bull’s own playing style.

Pablo de Sarasate: The Dances of Spain

Pablo de Sarasate was trained in the Paris Conservatoire; he came out of the line-
age of composer-violinists that can be traced back to Pierre Baillot, Pierre Rode, and Ro-
dolphe Kreutzer, and was represented in the 1850s, 1860s, and 1870s by Henri Vieux-
temps and Henryk Wieniawski. Both Vieuxtemps and Wieniawski wrote in a number of
violin genres: not only did they compose the type of short character pieces examined
here, but they also wrote violin concertos and other works of a more serious nature with
large-scale forms. Sarasate’s own compositional output, however, evinces a change from
this tradition, as his works are almost exclusively of the shorter show-piece variety. Some
of his compositions are fantasies on popular operas of the day, including Carmen, Der
Freischütz, La forza del destino, and Don Giovanni. The largest portion of his oeuvre,
however, is made up of character pieces based on Spanish dances. Sarasate drew on mu-
sic from a wide variety of geographical and cultural regions when composing Spanish

65 Ole Bull: A Norwegian Pioneer, performed by Arve Tellefsen, Håvard Gimse, Eivind
Aadland, and the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra (Simax Classics, PSC1261, 2005).
66 For Bull’s use of harmonics, see Haugen and Cai, 215.

dances. In contrast to Wieniawski’s polonaises and mazurkas, which are more generically
“Polish,” these works are closely tied to specific locales and styles, representing Galican
Spain, or Andalusian Spain, or Catalan Spain (see Table 3).
During the nineteenth century, Spanish dance types were performed in several dif-
ferent types of contexts. Most of the dances listed in Table 1 were still being danced by
Spanish peasants as part of a living tradition. Outside of Spain, dances such as the bolero,
fandango, and cachucha were performed frequently in Parisian salons and public music
venues.67 Another significant use of Spanish dances occurred in opera or ballet perform-

ance, where they were borrowed by European composers outside of Spain and stylized
for stage performances. Bizet’s Carmen contains the best known of these stylizations, but
there were many other examples as well. Ironically, the Spanish aristocracy and upper
middle class did not dance Spanish folk dances, much to the disappointment of some out-
side observers:

Describing a party (tertulia) in Granada, [Théophile] Gautier… re-

counts how the Spaniards dance neither the fandango, nor the bo-
lero, nor the jota, as these dances are relegated to the peasants, the
servants, and the Gypsies. They prefer instead the contradanse, the
rigodon [sic], and the waltz.68
Many of the dance forms Sarasate used, then, could either be heard as part of the indige-
nous folk culture of Spain or heard as exoticized music in the salons of Paris or on the
opera stage. They were not part of upper-class Spanish culture.
Sarasate’s own Spanish Dances were not composed for dancing or for the opera
stage; instead, he created them for the context of the solo virtuoso concert. Sarasate was

67 Kerry Murphy, “Carmen: Couler Locale or the Real Thing?” in Music, Theater, and Cultural
Transfer: Paris, 1830-1914, ed. Annegret Fauser and Mark Everist (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 2009), 297.
68 Judith Etzion, “The Spanish Fandango: From Eighteenth-Century ‘Lasciviousness’ to
Nineteenth-Century Exoticism,” Anuario musical: Revista de musicologia del C. S. I. C. 48
(1993): 242.

Table 5. Sarasate’s dances

Geographical Related Dance Title Work

Origin Form

Andalusia Romanza Andaluza Spanish Dances Book 2, op. 22, No. 1

Andalusia Serenade Andaluza Spanish Dances Book 5, op. 28
Andalusia Flamenco Zapateado Spanish Dances Book 3, op. 23, No. 2
Andalusia* Seguidilla Playera Spanish Dances Book 3, op. 23, No. 1
Aragon Fandango Jota Aragonesa Op. 27
Basque Zortzico Zortzico d'Iparaguirre, Op. 39

Basque Zortzico Miramar Op. 42

Catalonia Caprice Basque Op. 24

Gallicia Muiñera Op. 32

Havana† Habañera Habañera Spanish Dances Book 1, op. 21, No. 2

Malaga Fandango Malagueña Spanish Dances Book 1, op. 21, No.1
Navarra‡ Jota Jota navarra Spanish Dances Book 2, op. 22, No. 2
Seguidilla Bolero Op. 30

* Many seguidillas originated in the Castillian region of Spain, but this particular style is

† Actually a modified form of English contradanse, popularized in Cuba and then exported across
the Atlantic again. Frances Barulich and Jan Fairley, “Habañera,” Grove Music Online,, accessed 21 January 2011

‡ Sarasate’s birthplace of Pamplona is in Navarra.


not part of the living folk tradition (though he certainly may have been familiar with
some of these dances from his boyhood in Pamplona), nor did he participate in the oper-
atic or balletic recreation of the dances. Instead, he adapted the music for the idiom of
violin and piano. In the process of this alteration, he kept some stylistic aspects of the
dances, while changing others, borrowing ideas from the Parisian musical culture of
which he was also a part.
Sarasate’s works fall into five major categories: works related to the fandango
(Malagueña and Jota Aragonesa); works related to the seguidilla (Playera and Bolero);

Basque-influenced works (Caprice Basque, Zortzico d’Iparaguirre, and Miramar); the

Gallician-inspired Muiñera; and three Andalusian-inspired pieces: Zapateado, Romanza
Andaluza and Serenata Andaluza.
The fandango is a dance in triple meter, usually notated in 3/8 or 3/4. It is often
accompanied by the guitar and castanets. As with many Spanish dances, sung verses were
often combined with the music. Its popularity began in the eighteenth century and ex-
tended into the nineteenth century. Considered to be an extremely sensual dance, the fan-
dango was even in danger of being banned.69
The earliest of Sarasate’s fandango-based works is the Spanish Dance op. 21, no.
1, Malagueña. According to Craig Russell, the malagueña is descended from the fan-
dango, but has a slower tempo and a more melancholy mood.70 Sarasate’s op. 21, no. 1,
is not a malagueña identical to those used for dancing, but merely borrows some of the
main characteristics of the dance form. The overall form of the work is the ABA form
common to many violin show pieces, but it has the moderate-tempo triple meter associ-
ated with the malagueña. The melancholy temperament typical of a malagueña is created

69 Israel J. Katz, “Fandango,” Grove Music Online,,

accessed 21 January 2011.
70 Craig H. Russell, “Malagueña,” Grove Music Online,,
accessed 3 December 2010.

in the A section through its major/minor mixture, narrow melodic range, and the dark un-
polished timbre created by the use of sul g. The opening piano chords alternate between
the D-major tonic chord and a G-minor subdominant chord in a static ostinato rather than
a tonally directed manner, helping to create an atmosphere of exoticism (see Example
14). In this piece, Sarasate did not choose to use the Phrygian modality often present in
malagueñas of this time period, but the fluctuations between tonic and minor subdomi-
nant chords express exoticism nonetheless. The violin’s melody also contains a mixture
of major and minor tonality. The opening six eighth notes of the violin part use the C#

and F# expected in D major, while the ornamental triplets in measures 8 and 14 use low-
ered sixth and seventh scale degrees. The same scale (with a major third between scale
degrees one and three, and lowered sixth and seventh scale degrees) is present in the
right-hand piano melody at the opening of the second section of Malaguena (Example
15). Sarasate used this scale in a number of his Spanish dances.
In the central B section of Malagueña, which is both more rhythmic and more
overtly virtuosic than the opening, the violin imitates the sound of the guitar and casta-
nets, the typical accompaniment instruments for the fandango. The double- and triple-
stop pizzicato chords are reminiscent of guitar chords, while the sixteenth notes, played
with alternating right- and left-hand pizzicato, evoke the rapid rhythm of the castanets
(see Example 16, mm. 55-63).71 It is the simultaneous imitation of both the guitar and
castanets that make this central section of Malagueña essentially Spanish in character.
Sarasate’s Jota Aragonesa, op. 27, reflects its fandango-related dance roots in its
3/8 meter, sprightly tempo, and four-bar phrasing.72 Dance historians posit that the jota
aragonesa may in fact have been one of the precursors of the fandango: “[Jotas

71 In music for the violin and other stringed instruments, left-hand pizzicato is notated by a “+”
sign above the note to be plucked.
72 Arcadio de Larrea Palacín and Jaume Aiats, “Spain II 3. Song,” Grove Music Online,, accessed 22 November 2010.

Example 14. Sarasate, Malagueña, mm. 1-10

Example 15. Sarasate, Malagueña, mm. 55-63


aragonesas], which are the ones most often seen in Spanish dance concerts, are very
lively and exuberant and literally spring from the soil with challenging kicks, leaps, and
turns.”73 The piece opens using musical language that is nearly identical to that of the
earlier Malagueña. The piano introduction has the same alternation between major tonic
and minor subdominant chords in the accompaniment, and the melody of the accompa-
niment uses the same scalar pattern as the Malagueña. However, once the violin enters,
the tonal language reverts to directional chord progressions rather than static mode mix-
ture. The restricted harmonic language in the accompaniment, usually only I-V-I, is also

similar to the original jota style.74 In the last few bars of the piece, the modal language of
the introduction returns, as if Sarasate wants to remind his listeners that they are indeed
listening to a Spanish piece.
Playera, from Spanish Dances, op. 23, no. 1, is related to the seguidilla. As a
dance, the seguidilla had been in existence since the late sixteenth century.75 By the
nineteenth century, it had several forms associated with different regions of Spain. The
playera was from Andalusia and was more melancholy in nature than the major tonality
seguidillas from the Castilian region. The playera shared its 3/4 meter and cadential
melismas with the Castilian dance.76
Sarasate’s Playera is a short piece in binary form with a brief coda that restates
the opening music. While the piano accompaniment in the first section of this work is
limited to the diatonic chords for D minor, the violin melody is in the Phrygian mode ex-

73 Matteo (Matteo Marcellus Vittucci), “Jota,” The Language of Spanish Dance: A Dictionary
and Reference Manual, 2nd ed. (Hightown NJ: Princeton Nook Company, 2003). See also Israel
J. Katz, “Fandango,” Grove Music Online,, accessed 3
December 2010.
74 Palacín and Aiats, “Spain II 3. Song.”

75 Jack Sage and Susana Friedmann, “Seguidilla,” Grove Music Online,, accessed 12 January 2011.
76 Sage and Friedmann, “Seguidilla.”

pected of the genre (Example 16, mm. 1-7). The violin melody clearly establishes A as
the tonal center, while the sixteenth notes outline the first four notes of an A Phrygian
scale (A, B-flat, C, D). The A modality in the violin solo is in contrast to the D-minor
chords in the piano part underlying the piano’s melody. In the second half of this work,
the violin theme is in D minor, matching the tonal center of the piano and sounding more
akin to common usage. However, as in Jota Aragonesa, the coda contains the same mo-
dal music of the opening, serving as a reminder of the exotic nature of the piece.

Example 16. Sarasate, Playera, mm. 1-7


There are also short ornamental turns throughout the piece, including roulades as-
sociated with cadences (see Example 17). While these could be heard simply as violinis-
tic ornaments by listeners unfamiliar with Spanish dances, such flourishes are associated
with the seguidilla style. Thus, the mode, meter, and melodic style of Sarasate’s piece
plainly mark it as a playera.

Example 17. Sarasate, Playera, violin, mm. 14-17

Another dance related to the seguidilla is the bolero, which had spread out from
Spain; throughout the nineteenth century various European composers outside the penin-
sula, including Ludwig van Beethoven, Carl Maria von Weber, and Hector Berlioz, com-
posed dances in the genre.77 Perhaps because the bolero had become widespread
throughout Europe decades before the composer’s career began, Sarasate’s own Bolero,
op. 30, is not a particularly exotic example of the genre. It does contain bolero rhythms in

the piano, and some characteristic dotted rhythms are present in the violin part as well
(see Examples 18 and 19). In general, however, this particular piece constitutes pure vir-
tuosic showmanship rather than a nuanced expression of exoticism, with double stops,
thrown bows, harmonics, and rapid scalar passages.

77 Willi Kahl and Israel J. Katz, “Bolero,” Grove Music Online,, accessed 27 January 2011.

Example 18. Bolero rhythms in Sarasate, Bolero, op. 30, piano, mm. 1-2, 16-17

Example 19. Sarasate, Bolero, op. 30, violin, mm. 13-20

Of all the compositions discussed in this paper, Sarasate’s zortzicos are the pieces
that exhibit the closest relationship to a specific geographic locale. The term zortzico re-
fers to a dance with a characteristic 5/4 meter used in music from the Basque region of
Spain, the home of a culturally distinct people group originating in the region of northern

Spain and southern France near the Atlantic ocean. Sarasate’s birthplace of Pamplona is

near Basque territory, so he may very well have grown up hearing the zortzico, as it was
one of its most common dance forms.78 Asymmetrical meters were still unusual in con-
cert halls at the end of the nineteenth century, and the zortzicos would have been
conspicuous in this context. (See Example 20, mm. 7-14.)

Example 20. Sarasate, Miramar, op. 42, mm. 7-14

Sarasate wrote two zortzicos, Zortzico d’Iparaguirre, op. 39 (1898) and Miramar,
op. 42 (1899). Op. 39 is probably an homage to the Basque poet and folk musician, José
Maria Iparraguirre. Though it was published nearly thirty years after Iparraguirre’s death
in 1870, there had been a surge of interest in Basque folklore in the preceding years. The
first collection of Basque poetry and music ever printed, Chants populaires du Pays
basque: paroles et musique originales, was issued in 1870 by a publishing house in
Bayonne, France.79 Several other important collections of Basque poetry and music were
also published in France between 1870 and 1900.80 Sarasate’s zortzicos, and the Zortzico

78 Denis Laborde, “Basque Music,” Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Volume 8, Europe
(New York: Garland Publishing, 2000), 310. “Zortzico” is sometimes alternately spelled as
79 Jean Dominique Julien Sallaberry, Chants populaires du Pays basque: paroles et musique
originales (Bayonne: Lamaignère, 1870).
80 Laborde, “Basque Music,” 316.

d’Iparaguirre in particular, were an extension of this emerging interest in Basque

Sarasate’s second published zortzico, Miramar, op. 42, contains the same striking
5/4 meter of the earlier zortzico and is in the form of a theme and variations. Miramar
translates to “sea-view,” although it does not seem to be indicative of a specific location.
The Spanish town of Miramar is on the Mediterranean, instead of on the Atlantic coast in
Basque territory. Since much of Basque land does lie near the sea, however, the title is
appropriate for a generically Basque piece. In composing Miramar, Sarasate incorporated

his standard virtuoso techniques: harmonics, double and triple stops, and pizzicato,
especially pizzicato performed simultaneously with arco.
Sarasate composed another work inspired by Basque music, the Caprice Basque,
op. 24, of 1881. While many of Sarasate’s Spanish dances exhibit modal characteristics
and non-common-practice scales, this piece contains standard major and minor tonality,
which was typical of much Basque music.82 According to Josè de Huarte, the piece
draws on several different Basque zortzicos, including “Desde que nace el dia, hasta que
muere el sol” and “Donostiyako iru damatxo.”83
Though it is based on zortzico melodies, the work utilizes 3/4 and 6/8 meters
instead of a 5/4 or 5/8 meter. Non-symmetrical meters abound in Basque music, however,
the first examples of transcribed Basque music—done before the emergence of ethno-
musicology as a science—did not successfully document this aspect of the music.84 The
previously mentioned collection, Chants populaires du Pays basque, does not contain a

81 Ruggiero Ricci, in his recording, seems to transform the 5/4 meter into something closer to
3/4. Rachel Barton is much more accurate with the meter in her recording.
82 Laborde, “Basque Music,” 309.

83 Woolley, 244.

84 Josep Marti “Folk Music Studies and Ethnomusicology in Spain,” Yearbook for Traditional
Music 29 (1997): 107, 109.

single example of a song in 5/4. Instead, the music is in 3/4, 2/4, or 6/8 meter. The
rhythmic language of Caprice Basque is similar to that in melodies from the Chants
populaires (Examples 21 and 22). In addition to sharing a 3/4 meter, both pieces have a
characteristic recurring dotted rhythm on the third beat of most measures.

Example 21. Sarasate, Caprice Basque, op. 24, mm. 9-16

Example 22. “Jeiki, Jeiki Etchenkuak” 85

85 Example from Sallaberry, Chants populaires, 29.


Other than its similarity to Basque music, the Caprice Basque is Sarasate’s
standard tour-de-force of virtuosic violin playing. It contains double- and triple-stop
passages, pizzicato combined with arco, statements of the melody using only artificial
harmonics, and rapid scalar passage-work. Though it contains some links to Basque
music, it is less overtly exotic than either of the zortzico pieces.

Example 23. Sarasate, Muiñera, op. 32, mm. 10-26

Sarasate’s Muiñeira, op. 32 (1885), is a clear representation of the Gallician

dance. The muiñeira (which translates as “mill”) is the most popular dance from the
Gallician region of Spain.86 It has a 6/8 meter and is often accompanied with a single-
drone Gallician bagpipe called the gaita gallega.87 Sarasate’s work opens with the

86 Arcadio de Larrea Palacin, Martin Cunningham, and Ramón Pelinski, “Spain 4. Dance and
Instrumental Music,” Grove Music Online,, accessed January
27, 2011.
87 Palacin et al., “Spain 4. Dance and Instrumental Music.” See also Matteo, “Gaita,” The
Language of Spanish Dance, 90.

unaccompanied solo violin playing high on the D string and using the G string as a drone,
imitating the sound of bagpipe with chanter and single drone (Example 23). The dance
has a 6/8 meter and is in theme and variations form, with each section showcasing a
different musical texture. The last section of the piece changes to a 2/4 time signature,
which is also occasionally a characteristic of the Gallician dances.
Sarasate’s Zapateado, op. 23, no. 2 (1880), portrays another Spanish dance, the
zapateado from Andalusia. In The Language of Spanish Dance, Matteo defines the
zapateado as a solo dance “in 6/8 time in which the feet display [rhythmic and counter-

rhythmic patterns] to the point of virtuosity, employing crescendos, diminuendos, and

even brief intervals of silence.”88 Sarasate’s version is in 6/8 time with a tempo marking
of Allegro. The piano accompaniment has a steady, rarely-broken stream of eighth notes,
similar to the rapid tapping of a dancer’s feet. In the few measures where the headlong
rush of the piano rhythm is broken, the violin maintains the frenetic pulse. There are a
variety of virtuoso techniques in this piece, including artificial harmonics and left-hand
pizzicati, but all are performed within the context of the rapid percussive pulse. Indeed,
the virtuosic demands on the violinist are similar to the virtuosity expected of a zapa-
teado dancer. The syncopation which is a characteristic part of the zapateado style is
present in Sarasate’s piece, notably in the violin melody at rehearsal H, especially nine
measures after H and following. (See Example 24, “Zapateado,” Reh. H, mm. 114-125.)
Sarasate’s Romanza Andaluza (1879) and Serenata Andaluza (1883) are two
pieces that have more similarities to Parisian serenades than to specific Spanish dances.
Though the titles both refer to the geographical location of Andalusia, there are many
different dances that come from this region of Spain, and the two compositions could be
related to any of them. The musical character of the pieces is not distinctive enough to

88 Matteo, “Zapateado,” in The Language of Spanish Dance, 267.


identify them as representative of a specific dance style, thus the titles seem merely to
signify a mood or local color, rather than a particular cultural object.

Example 24. Sarasate, “Zapateado,” mm. 114-125


Romanza Andaluza opens with a guitar-style rhythmic figure in the piano accom-
paniment (Example 25, mm. 1-8). The opening violin melody has a narrow range, as in a
folk melody, but is joyously lyrical in character. The step-wise motion of the arch-shaped
melody stays within the range of a fifth for almost the entire first four measures, expand-
ing to an octave only at the end. The grace-notes add a sense of playfulness to the mel-
ody. The imitation of the guitar, an instrument intimately associated with Spain, as well
as the folk-style of the melody, lends a gentle air of exoticism to this piece, without por-
traying specific regional characteristics.

Example 25. Sarasate, Romanza Andaluza, mm. 1-8


Sarasate appears to have taken the Parisian nocturne style, most associated with
Chopin, and incorporated it into this Romanza’s texture in portraying a love song. James
Parakilas has argued that the closely entwined thirds in Chopin’s nocturnes may be linked
to Parisian vocal nocturnes, which were often duets with close harmony between two so-
prano voices.89 There are a number of instances of double-stopped thirds in Sarasate’s
Romanza Andaluza (Example 26). The presence of these expressive thirds throughout the
piece echoes the language of Parisian nocturnes, and indicates that this work is a love
song set in Andalusia rather than Paris.

Example 26. Sarasate, Romanza Andaluza, mm. 70-73

The Serenata Andaluza exhibits many of the same stylistic traits as the Romanza.
It opens with a similarly lyrical gesture in legato eighth notes and step-wise motion,
though the melody rapidly extends a full octave from e'' to e''' (Example 27, m. 5-9). The
octave melodic range contrasts with the narrower range used in the Romanza (Example
25). The rapid notes reminiscent of guitar music occur in the violin part, rather than the
piano as in the earlier work (see Example 28, mm. 77-80). The thirds that suggest lovers,
an expected part of a serenade, are present in the meno mosso section of this Serenata
(Example 29, mm 207-214). Nonetheless, the Serenata is more blatantly virtuosic than

89 James Parakilas, “‘Nuit plus belle qu’un beau jour’: Poetry, Song, and the Voice in the Piano
Nocturne,” in The Age of Chopin: Interdisciplinary Inquiries, ed. by Halina Goldberg
(Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2004), 206.

the Romanza, as Sarasate put more typical virtuoso techniques in this work, including
bariolage, harmonics, and combined arco and pizzicato.

Example 27. Sarasate, Serenata Andaluza, violin, mm. 5-9

Example 28. Sarasate, Serenata Andaluza, violin, mm. 77-80

Example 29. Sarasate, Serenata Andaluza, violin, mm. 207-214

The Spanish Dances that Sarasate composed and performed throughout his career
reflect a range of approaches to translating Spanishness into virtuosic violin music. Some
of his works, such as his zortzicos and his piece Muiñera, are closely related to cultural
idioms of specific regions of Spain. Others, such as the Romanza Andalusia and Serenata

Andalusia, are less clearly ethnically delineated and combine Spanish flavor with an es-

sentially Parisian aesthetic. In general, Sarasate’s earlier works tend to be less anchored
in traditional Spanish music, while his later works tend to use more of the specific dance
music of Spain.
In the context of Sarasate’s rich use of his cultural heritage, it is significant that
Sarasate’s audience failed to recognize the cultural distinctions present in the music. The
public did not necessarily have a clear idea from which regions of Spain these dances
originated. Critics, who perhaps could have been expected to know better, tended to gloss
over these pieces in their reviews. However, Sarasate continued to compose, perform, and

publish these ethnically diverse works, even when his European audiences seemed to no-
tice little beyond a titillating and generically Spanish virtuosity.
Wieniawski, Bull, and Sarasate had differing approaches to incorporating aspects
of the music of their homelands in their virtuoso show pieces. Wieniawski used the most
internationally well-known dances of Poland, while Bull drew specifically on traditional
Norwegian fiddle tunes, sometimes actually performing on the traditional Hardanger fid-
dle, and sometimes copying the sound of Hardanger playing on a standard violin.
Sarasate composed show pieces inspired by dances from various regions of Spain, and
translated them into the medium of violin, which had not previously been widely associ-
ated with Spanish dances. Even though the three violinists drew on diverse aspects of
their relative cultures, each used those aspects to create music that would be recognizably
exotic to audiences across the world.



Since Henryk Wieniawski, Ole Bull, and Pablo de Sarasate were three of the
foremost violinists of their day, there were hundreds of newspaper articles written about
them and their concerts. Concert promoters published advertisements for concerts, music
critics reviewed the performances, music lovers wrote letters to the newspapers about
their favorite musicians, and persons with a poetic bent even wrote poems in honor of

their musical heroes. The newspaper accounts from across Europe and North America are
invaluable for providing a record of the violinists’ performing repertoire, which often
varied from year to year and from location to location. Concert advertisements usually
included a list of works to be performed (though these programs were subject to change
the night of the concert), and reviewers often indicated the names of most of the pieces
performed in an evening. The lists of repertoire demonstrate where and when these vio-
linists chose to include their Polish, Norwegian, or Spanish compositions.
Newspaper articles provide insights into how the violinists’ ethnicity was per-
ceived by their audiences, as well as what role their own compositions played in shaping
the perceptions of the audience. For example, Bull’s ethnicity was routinely commented
upon in newspaper records of his performances, while Wieniawski’s was mentioned less
often. There are more subtle clues to contemporary perceptions of national origin as well
in the words used to describe certain assumed national characteristics, such as the subtle
ways in which the Spanish Sarasate was portrayed as representative of the exotic “other.”

A Little Bit of Poland: Wieniawski’s Reception

Wieniawski was a cosmopolitan, Paris-based violinist, more so than Bull, and
perhaps even more than Pablo de Sarasate. Of Wieniawski’s many compositions, the
polonaises and mazurkas are the only works that demonstrate exotic traits, and they were
only infrequently included as part of his repertoire. The reports of Wieniawski’s concerts
in music periodicals suggests that he performed his Polish dances seldom, if ever, in
German territory. He did perform them occasionally in France and England, and pro-
grammed them the most frequently in the United States and Poland. Wieniawski’s reper-

toire was wide-ranging, including Beethoven’s Romances and Violin Concerto, Mendels-
sohn’s Violin Concerto, J. S. Bach’s solo sonatas (including the “Prelude” to the E-Major
Partita and the Chaconne from the D Minor Partita), violin concertos by Henri Vieux-
temps and Giovanni Battista Viotti, and Paganini’s Carnival of Venice. He also per-
formed his own Legende, Fantasia on themes from Faust, and concertos.
Unlike Ole Bull or, later, Sarasate, Wieniawski did not seek to exoticize himself
for his audiences. While Bull and Sarasate were quite often referred to in newspapers and
periodicals as “the Norwegian violinist” or “the Spanish violinist,” Wieniawski was sel-
dom, if ever, referred to as the “Polish violinist.” He was merely “the great violinist
Wieniawski.” Although he did occasionally play his own polonaises and mazurkas (the
former more frequently), he was far better known for his large-scale work for violin and
orchestra, Legende.
Nonetheless, in her article on Wieniawski’s reception in Poland, Zofia Chechlin-
ska maintains that the composer’s polonaises and mazurkas were favorites at concerts in
Polish cities, and that the violinist himself, along with other musicians of Polish origin,
was viewed with pride. During the nineteenth century Poland had ceased to exist as a na-
tion, having been absorbed by stronger powers around her. The Russian empire in par-

ticular took measures to wipe out Polish culture altogether, including enforcing the use of

the Russian language—and often forbidding Polish—in schools.90 Polish nationalism,

and in particular pride in the accomplishment of Polish musicians and artists, was there-
fore seen as a means of maintaining a sense of cultural identity independent from the
Russian invaders. Chechlinska notes, “[Polish performers] were seen as symbols of the
nation, and their success received as a sign of acceptance and recognition for that nation,
which in turn aroused national pride.”91 A clear example occurs in a Polish review of
Wieniawski’s compositions:

The Polonaise and the Kujawiak declared the thoughts of the art-
ist’s Polish soul. The majesty and nobility of the first, the military
and romantic eagerness of the second were elevated to the greatest
artistry. This Polish music could make one fall in love with Poland,
if one did not love her already. It was no surprise that the hall was
predominantly full of Poles or that the enthusiasm exceeded the
usual measure of concert rapture, for the audience welcomed their
soloist not only as an artist of genius but as a man who will bear
the fame of being Europe’s top violinist world-wide, and with his
sorcerer’s bow will spread wide the glory of his Polish name.92
The irony, of course, is that Wieniawski’s Polish heritage does not seem to have been
important to audiences and critics outside of Poland.
That Wieniawski performed his polonaises in France is not surprising, consider-
ing that the music of Chopin was still popular there, and there was still a Polish expatriate
community in residence. Wieniawski’s polonaises would have corresponded well with
Parisian tastes. Depending on the nationality and political awareness of each audience
member, Wieniawski’s country of origin may or may not have been relevant to his
French listeners. The relative unimportance of Wieniawski’s Polish ancestry is evident in
La Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris’s coverage of the violinist’s Paris performances.

90 Piotr Stefan Wandycz, The Lands of Partitioned Poland: 1795-1918, vol. 7, A History of East
Central Europe, ed. Peter F. Sugar and Donald W. Treadgold (Seattle: University of Washington
Press, 1996) 185-186, 260.
91 Chechlinska, “Henryk Wieniawski,” 19.

92 Ibid., 19.

On a concert on January 3, 1875, the Revue recounted that Wieniawski played both Bee-
thoven’s Romance in F and his own Second Polonaise.93 There is no mention of
Wieniawski’s Polish origin. On the same page as the review of Wieniawski’s concert,
there is also a notice about the violinist Edouard Réményi; the paper introduces him as
“Le violiniste hongrois Réményi,” highlighting his Hungarian origin.94 It is true that by
this period in Wieniawski’s career he had been performing in Paris for over twenty-five
years, whereas Réményi was only in Paris for his second visit. Nevertheless, even though
Wieniawski was performing Polish music on his concert, his nationality was not noted by

the paper.
Between 1872 and 1874 Wieniawski toured the United States with the noted pi-
anist Anton Rubinstein. Rubinstein always received top billing at these concerts as well
as more attention from the critics than Wieniawski, though Wieniawski was warmly
praised: “In Mr. Wieniawski [Rubinstein] has a worthy companion. This illustrious artist
surpasses all our previous experience of violinists.” 95 Wieniawski’s repertoire for these
concerts did not tend to include his polonaises, except perhaps as unprogrammed encores
that were not noted by reviewers. He instead performed more serious musical selections,
such as concertos by Vieuxtemps, Mendelssohn, or himself, and movements of unaccom-
panied Bach.
Though Wieniawski’s polonaises were not heard on his joint concerts with Rubin-
stein, he did perform them in America. In addition to his appearances with the eminent
pianist, Wieniawski also gave smaller chamber music concerts, on which he tended to
program the polonaises. These concerts tended to consist of lighter fare and were devoid
of the concertos and sonatas by Beethoven that characterized the programs with Rubin-

93 “Nouvelles Diverses,” Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris, January 10, 1875.

94 Ibid.

95 “Rubinstein and Wieniawski,” Dwight’s Journal of Music, October 19, 1872.


stein; thus the polonaises—more informal pieces than Wieniawski’s Concerto for Violin
or Legende—were appropriate in this context.
Mention of Wieniawski’s ethnicity is notably absent from the American papers
during this tour. He was referred to at times as “Herr Wieniawski” and other times as
“Mr. Wieniawski,” but I found no references to his Polish ancestry in articles from 1872-
74. There are no references to “M. Wieniawski” or “Monsieur Wieniawski,” so his
French connections were likewise overlooked. Wieniawski’s performance of the polo-
naises during his time in the United States seems to be connected merely to the pro-

gramming of smaller chamber pieces, rather than a deliberate portrayal of exoticism or of

Polish nationalism.
Shortly after Wieniawski’s death in Moscow on March 31, 1880, obituaries ap-
peared in newspapers and musical periodicals around the world. The obituaries did, of
course, mention the violinist’s Polish nationality, as part of a brief biography. They
tended, however, to focus on Wieniawski’s performing career and his two most popular
compositions, Légende and Fantasia on themes from Faust. The polonaises and mazur-
kas received no mention in the obituaries from the Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris,
Dwight’s Journal of Music, or The New York Times.96 These pieces were not considered
substantial or significant enough to include in an obituary, though mention of
Wieniawski’s two violin concertos is missing as well.
The absence of any mention of Polish dances in the obituaries, for the purposes of
this discussion, suggests that Wieniawski’s Polish nationality was not centrally important
to his reception as a violin virtuoso. The Polish dances were perhaps personally signifi-
cant to Wieniawski, since he composed them over the breadth of his career as a profes-

96 “Nécrologie: H. Wieniawski. Obituaire: Mme Dalifard, née Laure Dancla,” La Revue et

Gazette Musicale de Paris, April 4, 1880; “Moscow [Death of Wieniawski],” Dwight’s Journal of
Music, April 24, 1880; “Wieniawski Obituary,” New York Times, April 8, 1880. The obituary in
Dwight’s seems to be largely copied from that in the New York Times, or perhaps both share the
same source.

sional violinist, and because he produced few other significantly exotic or nationalistic
works. The polonaises and mazurkas were also important in Poland, where they were
perceived as evidence of Polish national character. To Wieniawski’s international audi-
ence, however, these pieces seem to have been little more than short, entertaining virtu-
osic compositions.

The Norwegian Paganini Abroad

While Wieniawski’s Polish roots were only subtly evident in his career, Ole
Bull’s Norwegian heritage was central to his professional persona. Though the violinist’s

performing repertoire did not primarily consist of Norwegian music, Bull persistently
cultivated musical ethnicity and exoticism as part of his overall character.97 He also pub-
licly supported the political movement for Norwegian independence from Swedish con-
trol.98 The close identification with the country of Norway was not only Bull’s doing;
critics, newspaper writers, and novelists also emphasized Bull’s Norwegian character as
part of what defined him as a virtuoso.
Though he was often compared to Paganini, Ole Bull had a very different public
persona. Paganini was known as the “devilish” violinist.99 Rumors abounded of Paganini
selling his soul to the devil in return for his prodigious violin skills, while commentary
and visual caricature of Paganini emphasized his “corpse-like” appearance and connected
him with witchcraft.100 In contrast, Bull’s Norwegian background allowed his persona to
be linked to the natural, the pastoral, and the morally wholesome. The titles of many of
Bull’s compositions demonstrate the violinist’s perceived affinity with nature and moral

97 Haugen and Cai, 268.

98 John Bergsagel, “Bull, Ole (Bornemann),” Grove Music Online,, accessed 29 January 2012.
99 Kawabata “Virtuosity, the Violin, the Devil.”

100 Ibid., 85, 87-88.


goodness; works such as The Mountains of Norway, Solitude on the Prairie, and Niagara
emphasize the natural world; A Herd-Girl’s Sunday and other compositions evoke a pas-
toral life-style; and pieces such as the Mother’s Prayer and Psalm of David are rooted in
Christian morality.101 Critics helped to strengthen the “natural” aspects of Bull’s per-
sona, consistently making comparisons in their reviews between the music itself (or
Bull’s performance of the music) and the features of Norway’s landscape, such as fjords,
mountains, and waterfalls.
An excellent example of Bull’s association with these characteristics can be found

in a story told by Rasmus B. Anderson in his introduction to the American version of a

novel, The Spell-Bound Fiddler, by Kristofer Janson. The translation of Janson’s book
was published in 1880, the year of Bull’s death, but it is apparent from the preface and
introduction that Bull’s death had not occurred (or was not yet common knowledge) at
the time of publication. Thus, the book reflects the contemporary attitude of Bull’s sup-
porters, both in Norway and in America.
Anderson’s tale centers on a husband and wife who move to the big city from a
small town. The husband is an avid fiddler, but the wife falls in with a strict religious sect
and becomes convinced that her husband’s music making is evil. She burns her husband’s
fiddle. Her husband grows more and more depressed without his music and in despera-
tion considers absconding to America. When Ole Bull comes to town, the husband goes
to hear the virtuoso perform and has a quasi-religious experience. His wife, who also
hears Bull’s performance, realizes that she has been wrong. She immediately goes to a
music shop, and her husband finds a new fiddle waiting for him when he gets home. The
story concludes:

She then told [her husband] that she had passed the meeting-house
just as Ole Bull was playing. The music had drawn her with a

101 Both Solitude on the Prairie and Niagara are unfortunately lost. Haugen and Cai, Bull, 251-

strange power. She had tried to resist, but had not succeeded, and
then she had been completely overcome. All her life as a child and
as a young girl, all her happy years, had passed before her vision,
and, as it were all at once, she had discovered all the wrong she
had done to [her husband] and to our Lord. And now she was so
certain that it was He [God] who had spoken to her through the
music and through the fiddle,—such was now her opinion;—it
could be no instrument of the devil.102
Here, Ole Bull’s music-making is portrayed in almost an opposite way to that of Pagan-
ini. Instead of having made an unsavory deal with the devil in return for his amazing
powers with his instrument, he is instead an instrument for God Himself. Bull’s music-
making becomes the instrument of the husband’s reconciliation with God, the wife’s re-

pentance, and the restoration of harmony between the couple.

The story’s emphasis on home and family would seem to be the opposite of ex-
otic, since it is missing the heightened sexuality, the lack of inhibitions, and the sense of
“otherness” common to the exoticization of Spanish, Gypsy, and other eastern cultures.
However, Bull’s persona as the Norwegian violinist included an emphasis on nature, and
the emphasis on nature included an emphasis on “natural” relationships (mother and
child, husband and wife). The exoticism of Norway was comprised of the wildness of the
landscape combined with the wholesomeness of the family life. Norway as a whole, and
Ole Bull in particular, was still “other” to the inhabitants of central Europe, Britain, and
America, but he in some ways represented an exoticism that was “safer,” morally and
The portrayal of Ole Bull as a more wholesome, Northern version of Paganini, the
devilish violinist, was only one of the comparisons made between Bull and the Italian
virtuoso during the former’s career. A striking example of comparison between the two
virtuosos is found in a lengthy and uncharacteristically harsh American review in The
Musical World in 1861: “M. Ole Bull is a fiddler of great repute, after his fashion….

102 Rasmus B. Anderson, introduction to Kristofer Janson’s The Spell-Bound Fiddler: A Norse
Romance, trans. Auber Forestier (Chicago: S. C. Griggs, 1884), 58.

Upwards of twenty years ago he astonished all London—which some years previously
Paganini had astonished—by his great executive powers and the peculiarities of his
style.” 103 The reviewer insisted that Bull shared nothing with Paganini but the “strange-
ness of his manner and his eccentricities,” but the following discussion reveals other con-
nections, as well. The bravura techniques used by both violinists indicated to audiences a
similarity in violinistic approach between the Norwegian virtuoso and the legendary Ital-
ian. The reviewer enumerates some of these techniques: “[Bull] has unusual command
over the resources of the instrument; his execution is surprising; his double-stopping

wonderful, his ‘harmonics’ extraordinary—or rather, let us say, would be, if all were
achieved without a flaw.”104 (“Surprising execution” seems to have meant to this re-
viewer an abundance of rapid scales and passage-work.)
The nineteenth-century bias against virtuosity itself is in evidence in this review.
The only emphasized word in the article is the word “virtuoso,” used in ironic denigra-
tion: :… the Scandinavian virtuoso possesses those [qualities] only which appertain to the
inferior school.”105 The reviewer goes to some length to praise Paganini, but he does so
using words that denigrate precisely the type of bravura virtuosity for which Paganini
was famous: “If fiddling had been restricted to legitimate playing, Paganini, we have no
doubt, would have surpassed all rivalry.”106 Despite the reviewer’s protestations that
Bull is less worthy because he is a lesser player than Paganini, it is evident that in the

103 Review by “T. E. B.,” The Musical World, April 20, 1861. The complete article can be found
in the Appendix.
104 Ibid.

105 Ibid.

106 Ibid.

mind of this critic Bull’s greatest sin is that he performed primarily in the bravura virtu-
oso style.107
The writer’s critique of Ole Bull also highlights his ethnicity, which is noted
throughout the review. Bull is not merely the virtuoso, he is the “Scandinavian” virtuoso,
or the “Norwegian” violinist. A phrase towards the end of the review states that Bull has
“accomplishments in art… [far] removed from the simple and the natural.” This state-
ment is directly contradictory to the position of Bull’s supporters , who identified Bull
and his music closely with “the simple and the natural.” Bull himself encouraged this

view, with his continual performance of folk music and compositions based on the natu-
ral world, such as Mountains of Norway or the lost work Niagara.
The connection between Ole Bull the Norwegian violinist and the physical land-
scape of his homeland is evident in the poetry (albeit somewhat amateurish) that was fre-
quently written in honor of him. A poem published in the Boston Daily Atlas in 1844 en-
To Ole Bull
Hail, great Niag’ra! Mighty torrent, hail!
To sing thy praise, my feeble efforts fail
Thy noble theme I leave to Ole Bull,
Whose soul of thy magnificence is full.
Ye sacred Nine! his magic bow inspire, 5
To touch “the strings” with true Promethean fire;
O’er depths profound his vivid skill will soar,
While list’ning ears will tremble at the roar.
As th’eternal current onward flows,
He’ll breathe the soothing strains of deep repose. 10
Hail, great Niag’ra! Art extends her wings,
And mounts above thy inexhaustless springs;
May all thy efforts with success be crown’d
While universal PLAUDITS wake around.108

107 The criticism of Bull’s supposedly weak technique does not ring true, given that Bull was
usually admitted to have solid technique, and the darling of musical purists, violinist Joseph
Joachim, was reported to have intonation issues in performance.

In spite of a muddled use of metaphors, it is clear that the poet connects the power and
beauty of the renowned North American waterfall with the power and beauty of Bull’s
musical gifts. The poet begins by addressing the waterfall directly, stating that only Ole
Bull could possibly express in music the wonders of its majesty. In an excess of water,
air, and fire imagery, the poet pictures Bull with flaming bow, soaring birdlike above the
waterfall. By the eleventh line of the poem, the poet seems at first to be addressing the
waterfall, while “Art” is the soaring bird. The last two lines make it clear, however, that
the “Niagara” at the end of the poem is Bull himself: an “inexhaustless” source of music.

Another poem, “To Ole Bull,” published in the New York Herald in 1844, also
uses extensive natural metaphors and similes. The episodic character of Bull’s composi-
tional style is reflected in the types of natural objects that his music brings to the poet’s
listening thy wild music [sic], we
Mighty panoramas see….
Now a changeful streamlet’s flow.
Rippling gaily, murmuring slow;…
“Crash”—as when the thunder’s stroke
Topples down the lofty oak,
And the quivering birds dart out
From their nests upon its bough—109
Bull’s music reminds the poet in turn of wide vistas, streams, thunderstorms, birds, and
forests. These images are all part of nature, but they also represent contrasts of strength
and weakness, peace and violence. The poet’s perception of wildness in Bull’s music is
linked to Bull’s tendency to perform medley and theme-and-variation types of music,
where rapid changes of musical character are inherent in the musical form. (The observa-
tion may not seem significant, given the widespread use of such forms by European vir-
tuosos, but this early in the nineteenth century some American audiences were not yet

108 “To Ole Bull,” Boston Daily Atlas, November 8, 1844.

109 “To Ole Bull,” New York Herald, June 25, 1844.

accustomed to the repertoire of European concert halls.) The poem, and others like it,
demonstrate that American audiences perceived Bull’s music as being intimately linked
to the natural world.
Poems are only some of the evidence that demonstrates how audiences perceived
Bull as the natural violinist. In a published letter reviewing a recent concert of Ole Bull’s,
the effusive Lydia Child described the music thus: “There is the pattering of water-drops,
gurglings, twitterings, and little gushes of song. The sublime waterfall is ever present
with its echoes, but present in a calm, contemplative soul.”110 On a more intimate note,

Harriet Beecher Stowe also referred to nature in a personal letter to Bull as she invited
him to stay with her family when he came through her area. “Come speak to us of the
lovely fjords and dripping waterfalls and glittering lakes of Norway—and, if you come
soon enough, we will take you to see our beautiful lakes in Andover.”111 Thus, Ole Bull
was intrinsically tied to nature in the minds of his American audience.
Bull’s continued popularity in the United States during the 1860s and 1870’s—the
last two decades of his career—was due at least in part to the large population of Norwe-
gian immigrants who settled in America during the second half of the century.112 The
migration was caused by crop failures in Norway and by other reasons related to changes
in land ownership practices and religious policies.113 There was also a significant wage
differential between Norway and the States: unskilled workers could earn three to four
times as much in the New World as in their home country.114 Bull’s reviews in the

110 Boston Courier, December 24, 1844, quoted in Inez Stewart Bull “Ole Bull’s Activities In
the United States Between 1843 and 1880” (Ed. D. diss, New York University, 1979), 22.
111 Harriet Beecher Stowe letter to Ole Bull, October 8, 1857, quoted in Inez Bull, 50-51.

112 Leonard Dinnerstein and David M. Reimers, Ethnic Americans: A History of Immigration, 4th
ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 23-24.
113 Susan F. Martin, A Nation of Immigrants (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010),
114 Ibid.

United States had been routinely positive even in the early years of his career before the
influx of Norwegians. As one American reviewer said in 1844: “it is labour lost to con-
tend with him for the public favor.”115
Later in his career, Bull spent a significant amount of time in the American Mid-
west, especially in Wisconsin and Minnesota where large numbers of his countrymen
were settling. In 1870, at the age of sixty, Bull married a young woman from Wisconsin,
and spent his last decade moving between his home in Bergen, Norway, and his new
home in Madison.116 He continued to support Norwegian causes in the New World, such

as raising funds for the erection of a monument to Leif Erickson by performing benefit
concerts around the upper Midwest.117
Bull’s reception on the European continent and in Britain was likewise positive,
but he also faced more detractors there than in the less culturally savvy New World. The
correspondents of the British newspaper The Musical World could be particularly harsh
in their comments about his career. One characteristic example of vitriol can be found in
an 1846 article:

Ole Bull, the violinist, has returned from America, covered with
the glory he has acquired by well feasting and otherwise bribing
the editors of the newspapers, who are more venal and corrupt in
the United States, than they are even here in Paris; where anybody
can be dubbed a celebrity by subscribing or presenting a M. S.
composition to the proprietors of La France Musicale.118

115 “American Notions On Modern Violinists,” Musical World, June 6, 1844.

116 There are also ties to Iowa City. On March 18, 1872, Bull and his entourage gave a concert in
Iowa City. That night, the Clinton House Hotel where the party was staying burned down. Bull
and all the people escaped safely, Bull in pajamas, clutching his violin. He paid a bellboy $50 to
go rescue his watch from the burning building, which the man did successfully. “The Clinton
House Burned,” The State Press (Iowa City, IA), March 27, 1872.
117 “Ole Bull’s Concerts for the Benefit of a Monument Fund; The Claims of Erickson as the
Discoverer of America,” Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, June 22, 1873.
118 “Foreign Intelligence,” The Musical World, February 14, 1846.

The author is obviously congratulating himself on not being as musically naïve as either
the French or the Americans. He also implies that Bull’s success in France and America
should not be credited to Bull’s skill on the violin, but rather to his pocketbook and to
bribing American critics. This is a reference to the common gossip that New York critics
were paid as much as $1500 per year in return for favorable concert reviews.119 Twenty-
five years later, the same publication was again printing criticism of Americans’ love of
Ole Bull:

Verily American criticism is a wonder. It sounds the depths, soars

to the heights, and embraces the length and breadth of what is
known over the water as “high-falutin.” Ole Bull is not a great
man; he is not even a great fiddler, but he can touch the hidden
springs of the poetry in an American critic to some purpose.120
The commentator is dismissive of both Bull’s skill and his character, and mercilessly
mocks the Americans for having the temerity to like Bull’s playing.
This is not to say that Bull was poorly received in Britain. Quite to the contrary,
Bull had great success in the British Isles, and reviews from the very same publication
demonstrate as much. On April 30, 1840, a Musical World correspondent enthused: “This
distinguished violinist… performed a concerto in three movements, a fantasia, ‘The
Norwegian’s Lament for Home,’ and some Variazoni di bravura; and in all of these dis-
played his astonishing command of the difficulties of his instrument.”121 Lest it be
thought that Bull was only praised early in his career, another review in the Musical
World from April of 1861 stated, “M. Ole Bull made a wonderfully original display in his
fantasia….”122 Yet another review of an Ole Bull concert in Sheffield later that same
year reads:

119 Russell Sanjek, American Popular Music and Its Business: the First Four Hundred Years:
Volume II From 1790 to 1909 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 66-67.
120 “Occasional Notes,” The Musical World, May 8, 1870.

121 “M. Ole Bull’s Concert,” The Musical World, April 30, 1840.

122 “New Philharmonic Concerts,” The Musical World, April 27, 1861.

Ole Bull we consider to be the greatest violin player the world has
heard, save Paganini, and it is doubtful which of the two, if they
could be heard together, would command the greatest admira-
tion.... his dexterous fingering and the rapidity with which he exe-
cuted the bizarre and extraordinary sounds of the “Carnival,” as
well as the majesty and dignity with which adagio movements
flowed from his bow, all alike stamp him as the greatest maestro
living.... His rendering of the “Mother's Prayer” was exquisite as a
illustration of pathetic melody, while in “Di tanti palpiti” he was
equally happy in illustrating music of a more sprightly
Not only does this review demonstrate that Bull was still admired by some in England, it
also indicates that he was still being favorably compared to Paganini twenty years after
the latter’s death.

Such reviews highlight not only Bull’s popularity in England, but also demon-
strate the range of his repertoire. He programmed specifically Norwegian works on some
of his concerts, but not all. He often included pieces by Paganini, such as the Carnival of
Venice (mentioned in the Sheffield review), or other works that displayed his bravura
technique, such as the indistinctly-titled Variazoni di Bravura mentioned in the 1840 re-
view. He also performed concertos, though he preferred his own Concerto to those which
are now considered central to the violin repertoire. This eclectic mix of repertoire was
undoubtedly popular with Bull’s audiences in the British Isles and elsewhere, since his
repeated tours were regularly successful monetarily. His choice of concert repertoire,
however, also left Bull open to criticism from those who wished to hear a more elite style
of concert music performed.124
Bull’s combined persona of Norwegian exoticism, show-stopping bravura, and
approachable programming also contributed to his popularity on the European continent.
Correspondents in the Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris praised Bull’s virtuosic multi-

123 “The Athenaeum Concert,” The Musical World, November 16, 1861.

124 The negative British reviews tended to emphasize Bull’s ethnicity and the positive reviews
tended to downplay it. However, his ethnicity does not appear to have been a drawback on the

ple stops, his rapid staccato, and his lyricism.125 An article about the Norwegian exhibits
at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1867 included specific discussion about the violin-
ist. The writer took pains to point out that Bull no longer resided in Norway (he was at
that time living in Philadelphia), but that he generously supported his countrymen, in-
cluding helping an entire village of Norwegians emigrate to the States after their village
burned to the ground.126 Even though he did not perform at the exposition, Bull was
integral enough to Parisian ideas of Norway to be automatically mentioned in any discus-
sion of that country. Bull also caught the imagination of one of France’s greatest writers,

George Sand, who included a fictionalized version of him in her 1870 novel Malgrétout.
Notably, the violinist “Abel” first appears in the novel playing out in the woods, yet an-
other demonstration of Bull’s appeal as the “natural violinist.”127
Bull also toured extensively in Italy, Germany, and Russia. An 1867 laudatory
concert review from the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung records that Bull performed his
fantasy Auf den Norwegischen Alpen (presumably his Mountains of Norway).128 Bull’s
most popular concert pieces in Europe, judging by the frequency with which they appear
in concert notices and reviews, were his Polacca Guerriera and the Carnival di Venice.
Nevertheless, Bull’s Norwegian ethnicity was still part of his appeal.

125 J. Guillou, “Lettres sur la Russe,” Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris, July 18, 1841. “Vous
connaissez Ole Bull, ses passages en triple corde et son rapide staccato; comme nous, vous savez
par coeur sa fameuse Polacca guerriera; comme nous, vous savez que pour bien jouir du talent
de ce virtuose il faut avoir l’ouïe aussi fine que les cordes avec lesquelles il monte son violon.”
126 Em. Mathieu de Monter, “Exposition universelle de 1867: Suède—Norwége—Danemark,”
Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris, September 15, 1867.
127 Haugen and Cai, Ole Bull, 279.

128 “Münchener Musikbrief,” Allgemeine musikalisch Zeitung, May 3, 1876.


The Spanish Virtuoso Abroad

Pablo de Sarasate shared with Henryk Wieniawski the cosmopolitan air of a Pari-
sian-trained violinist, but like Ole Bull he actively cultivated a persona related to his na-
tion of origin. Leopold Auer, the Hungarian violinist and teacher, recalled that Sarasate
would constantly carry about Spanish fans to give to his female admirers.129 Of course,
far more important to Sarasate’s portrayal of himself as Spanish was the Spanish music
he produced and made part of his performing repertoire. As is evident from the discus-
sion in Chapter 2, Sarasate drew from a wide range of traditions from different regions of

While composing different types of Spanish dances seems to have been important
to Sarasate artistically, concert reviews do not indicate that the musical portrayal of vari-
ous regions of Spain extant in his compositions was important to his international suc-
cess. The exotic Spanishness of the music was important, but the specific regionalism of
the dances was entirely overlooked. Sarasate routinely played his Spanish dances, but he
also alternated them with the Carmen Fantasy and Zigeunerweisen, which often received
the same sort of critical reception as the Spanish dances. All of these works were essen-
tially virtuosic show pieces, and reviewers tended to want to spend more time discussing
the music perceived as more serious, such as concertos and sonatas.
The bias towards larger forms and against virtuosity was rooted at least partially
in the German-influenced thinking of the time, which was epitomized by the violinist Jo-
seph Joachim, with whom Sarasate was often compared. Joachim represented the artistic
violinist, rather than the virtuosic violinist. In the words of London contemporary George
Bernard Shaw, “Joachim is famous for the austerity of his repertoire. He will play noth-
ing meretricious: he stands inflexibly by the classics; and will none of your Sarasate

129 Woolley, “Sarasate,” 239.


dance tunes and national airs.”130 Sarasate chose to make these “dance tunes and na-
tional airs” a regular part of his performances, and many critics in Germany and else-
where looked askance at such pieces.
According to concert notices and newspaper reviews, Sarasate typically included
his own compositions only toward the end of his recitals. The main selections on his con-
certs were larger works such as Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, Beethoven’s Violin
Concerto, Max Bruch’s Second Concerto or his Scottish Fantasy, Alexander Campbell
Mackenzie’s Violin Concerto or Pibroch Suite, Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata, or one of

Saint-Saëns’ violin concertos. Many of Sarasate’s appearances were at joint concerts with
pianists or vocalists, who also performed major concertos or other selections for their
portion of the evening’s entertainment. These concerts could be smaller affairs with piano
only, or they could be larger events with full orchestra.
Post-concert notices in the newspapers of the day were often short, only a para-
graph or two in length; this significantly limited the amount of space the reporter had
available to discuss the music. Many concert “reviews” merely listed the pieces per-
formed, often leaving off the titles of Sarasate’s compositions, and merely stating “at the
end of the concert, another encore was granted, Señor Sarasate playing an extremely ef-
fective and difficult composition of his own.”131 Reviews of Sarasate’s concerts on the
European continent were often even shorter and less informative than those from Great
Britain and the United States. The Gazetta Musicale di Milano’s many correspondents
reported Sarasate’s concerts across the continent throughout the last two decades of the
nineteenth century, detailing concerts in Brussels, Leipzig, Berlin, Mannheim, Barcelona,
and other locales. Few of these reviews mentioned any smaller pieces performed by

130 Shaw, London Music in 1888-89, 335.

131 The Times London, June 10, 1890.


Sarasate. The reports from Germany tended only to cover the major concerto or sonata
performed on each concert in any detail.
If the newspaper allowed room for a longer review of the concert, the critic often
commented on Sarasate’s skill, technical style, and quality of sound. For example, if
Sarasate had performed a composition by Beethoven, there would often be a comparison
between his performance of the German work and that of Sarasate’s own works, some-
times with the subtle implication that Sarasate’s performance was lacking in the mascu-
line power supposedly demanded by Germanic art.132 A Boston reviewer of a joint con-

cert by Sarasate and the pianist Eugen D’Albert commented in detail on Sarasate’s per-
formance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto but only briefly on the violinist’s performance
of his own compositions:

Then came Sarasate, the sweet-toned, and played Beethoven's vio-

lin concerto. It was a brilliant performance, albeit not in the true
style of the composer. Sarasate has not sufficient breadth to satisfy
the demands of a titanic movement such as begins this work. He
gave the movement with a suavity that was out of place, and never
attained the force that is indicated by the four massive strokes
which form the basis of the allegro.... The second movement, the
andante, was better suited to the elegant and expressive style of the
violinist, and was a most pronounced success. The final rondo is a
weak movement compared with the other two, but Sarasate made it
interesting by the brilliancy with which he invested it. Neverthe-
less, he was much more satisfying in the Spanish music which he
subsequently gave, for there are greater players of Beethoven, but
there are none who can rival Sarasate in performing the music of
his native land.133
The reviewer’s complaints against Sarasate’s lack of force and “out of place” suavity are
indicative of Sarasate’s perceived lack of masculinity. This is evident in another review
in the same paper for a concert few days earlier: “Pablo de Sarasate is in some respects

132 Linda Phyllis Austern has discussed the connection between exoticism and femininity in
music in her article “’Forreine Conceites and Wandring Devises’: The Exotic, the Erotic, and the
Feminine,” in The Exotic in Western Music, Jonathan Bellman, ed., (Boston: Northeastern
University Press, 1998), 26-42.
133 The Boston Daily Advertiser, Monday, December 2, 1889.

the antithesis of D’Albert; he is tender where the other is broad, he is sweet where the
other is noble.”134 D’Albert and Sarasate had both performed pieces by Chopin on the
concert, and while the reviewer was careful to make clear that D’Albert had played with-
out effeminacy, he made no such distinction when discussing Sarasate’s performance of a
transcribed Chopin nocturne.135 The reviewers’ adjectives, such as “elegant, “expres-
sive,” “tender,” and “sweet,” are words that in the nineteenth century often connoted
feminine rather than masculine virtues. The reviewers’ subtle feminization of Sarasate
playing style echoed existing presuppositions about exotic cultures in general and Spain

in particular. Sarasate’s playing was, by all accounts, characterized by a sweetness and

purity of tone, rather than breadth of sound. Such a playing style is, of course, neither
feminine nor masculine in itself, but it could be perceived as having gendered qualities in
the midst of the musical discourse of the late nineteenth century. In the opinion of the
Boston reviewer, Sarasate’s style was best suited to “the music of his native land,” which
the reviewer was not interested in discussing.
This is not to say that reviewers were always negative about Sarasate’s perform-
ances of German works. To the contrary, writers were often complimentary of Sarasate’s
interpretation of Beethoven’s and Mendelssohn’s violin music, and sometimes credited
his success specifically to his nationality. One reviewer from The Times London praised
“the peculiar fire which the Southern artist imparts to the German composer’s thoughtful
conception… which distinguishes his reading [of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto] from
that of Joachim.”136 A year later, the same publication lauded his performance of the
Beethoven Violin Concerto with similar words:

134 The Boston Daily Advertiser, November 28, 1889.

135 Ibid.

136 “Señor Sarasate’s Concert,” The Times London, April 23, 1883.

To fully appreciate the Spanish virtuoso’s rendering of Beetho-

ven’s or, indeed, of German music in general, one must bear in
mind the sovereign rights of individual genius. By saying that his
interpretation differs from that, for example, of Joachim, we by no
means wish to imply that it is of its kind inferior…. [In] the finale
Senor Sarasate displayed all his southern fire without at the same
time hurrying the tempo 137
The critic’s praise of Sarasate’s interpretation of Beethoven is couched in terms that
make it clear the critic was trying to counteract certain presuppositions in the minds of
his readers, particularly the assumption that Joachim’s interpretation of Beethoven would
be ipso facto the best. The reviewer also took pains to insist that the violinist’s “Southern
fire” did not lead to any loss of control, which nonetheless indicates that some of The

Times’ readership would expect a Spanish flair to cause a lack of precision.

Another source that portrays Sarasate’s performance of German music positively
is, surprisingly, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s well-known detective story “The Red-Headed
League,” featuring the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. In this story, Holmes
is facing a particularly perplexing problem, and in an effort to clear his mind he invites
his friend Watson to come with him to hear Sarasate perform at St. James Hall (where
Sarasate did in fact perform regularly for years). Holmes explains, “… there is a good
deal of German music on the programme…. It is introspective, and I want to intro-
spect.”138 Holmes is, of course, portrayed as a highly intelligent person, with a keenly
developed musical ability. Watson notes, “My friend was an enthusiastic musician, being
himself not only a very capable performer but a composer of no ordinary merit.”139
Sarasate’s performance helps Holmes mentally while feeding him artistically. It is sig-
nificant, however, that the violinist’s program on that particular fictional afternoon was
made up of German music rather than Sarasate’s own pieces.

137 “Señor Sarasate’s Concert,” The Times London, May 22, 1884.

138 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Red-Headed League,” The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,
(London: The Electric Book Company, 2001) 58.
139 Ibid, 61.

Intellectual needs of fictional detectives aside, Sarasate’s audiences expected

southern flair and romance. This is evident even in images of Sarasate from the day, such
as the cartoon of the violinist in the South American music journal La Musica Ilustrada
(Figure 3). The second figure from the left, in particular, shows a wild-haired Sarasate
performing a romantic Chopin nocturne, with a moon peeping over his shoulder and his
forehead drenched with sweat from the intensity of his effort and emotion. Reviewers
tried at times to counter this stereotype. “[Sarasate] is always alert, swift, clear, refined,
certain, scrupulously attentive and quite unaffected,” wrote Shaw:

This last adjective will surprise people who see him as a black-
haired romantic young Spaniard, full of fascinating tricks and
mannerisms. It will surprise them still more to hear that the person
they so idealize produces the whole illusion with his fine eyes
alone, being for the rest a man of undistinguished stature…. There
is no trace of affectation about him….
The popular understanding of Sarasate as a “black-haired romantic young Spaniard,”
however, was part of the reason that the value of Sarasate’s interpretations of the
“serious” German masters was sometimes questioned.

Figure 3. Cartoon of Pablo de Sarasate from La Musica Ilustrada Hispano-

Americana (October 10, 1899)

Sarasate’s predilection for composing in shorter genres would not have countered
his portrayal in the media. In the later half of the nineteenth century, the ability to com-
pose in larger, more formally strict genres, was perceived as being limited to male artists.
Smaller works, especially pieces like Sarasate’s Spanish character pieces whose charm
depended as much on their formal simplicity and easy accessibility for the audience as on
their virtuosic acrobatics, were perceived as having less aesthetic value than larger, more
intellectual works. London critics, especially, tended to denigrate Sarasate’s Spanish
pieces and rarely referred to them by name, preferring to lump them under the heading of

“characteristic Spanish dances.” In short, a combination of playing style, compositional

choices, national origins, and programming selections caused reviewers to sometimes
question the artistic value of Sarasate’s performances.
Nonetheless, the audience’s reception of the Spanish dances seems to have been
far more positive than that of the critics. Writers who noted that Sarasate played his own
compositions almost invariably also mentioned the audience’s positive response to
Sarasate’s works. A writer for The Times London observed of one night’s recital that
Sarasate’s performance of his own Spanish Dances “relieved the minds of yesterday’s
audience after the severe classical training they had gone through in the earlier part of the
concert.”140 The critics found it easier to gloss over Sarasate’s compositions than to
gloss over the audience’s obvious appreciation of them. In a few cases the condemnation
of Sarasate’s compositions was quite harsh:

…Señor Sarasate spoiled this good impression [from his perform-

ance of the Bruch Second Violin Concerto], at any rate in the esti-
mation of the judicious, by introducing an example of what may be
termed farmyard music, written by himself. This rubbish was of
course loudly applauded. If the player had stood on his head during
the piece the cheering would no doubt have been greater still.141

140 The Times London, Tuesday April 20, 1886.

141 From a review of a concert of April 18, 1885: “Señor Sarasate’s Concerts,” The Musical
Times and Singing Class Circular 26 (May 1, 1885): 266.

While the reviewer condemns the public’s reaction, it is nevertheless apparent from his
comments that the public was applauding wildly.
When critics did mention Sarasate’s compositions by name, they did not mention
any—and indeed may have been completely unaware of—cultural distinctiveness in con-
nection with specific pieces beyond their generic Spanish origin. A review of a London
concert is typical:

He was, of course, called upon for another encore after two new
pieces of his own, ‘Miramar’ and ‘Caprice Jota,’ both examples of
a very familiar style of Spanish national music, and both abound-
ing in difficulties of every kind. That both were exquisitely played
goes without saying, and it is scarcely unwelcome news that they
are not yet published, since we shall for the present be spared the
trial of hearing less accomplished violinists attempt them.142
The fact that Miramar is a striking piece in 5/8 meter from the Basque region completely
eluded this critic’s attention. It was more important to the writer that he not be subjected
to sub-par performances of these works by unskilled violinists.143
The Boston Daily Advertiser writer’s mention of Sarasate’s Muiñera, op. 32, is
an exception to the widespread oversight suffered by Sarasate’s compositions. The Ad-
vertiser’s critic demonstrated at least a passing understanding of the musical character of
the work, with its compound meter and bagpipe imitation.

The Muniera began most characteristically with a musette, with a

drone bass that was most attractive, and was shaded to perfection.
Of course the greatest enthusiasm was evoked by the scintillating
style in which this number was given, and after some half dozen
recalls the artist added a Spanish Dance of his own composition,
full of characteristic effects, which again aroused a persistent ap-
plause which would only be stilled by another selection, which
came in the shape of another of the same set of dances.144

142 The Times London, November 10, 1899.

143 Unfortunately for the poor critic, both works were in fact published in Leipzig in 1899.

144 Boston Daily Advertiser, December 2, 1889.


Since a musette is a pastoral piece reminiscent of bagpipe playing, the critic understood
that much about Sarasate’s piece. It is not clear from this example whether he was aware
that the muñeira originated in a particular region of Spain, but he at least recognized its
essential musical texture. However, the succeeding dances performed by Sarasate at this
particular Boston concert were given only cursory attention in the review.
If one were to judge from concert reviews alone, it would be hard to demonstrate
that Sarasate even performed his Spanish Dances on his many performances in Germany,
let alone prove that they were popular with the crowd. Though a correspondent for The

Musical World does briefly mention Sarasate playing his Spanish Dances works at an
1886 concert in Leipzig, there are few other mentions in the available record.145
Sarasate’s publishing record in Germany, however, tells a more complete story. The pub-
lishing houses of Bartholf Senff and J. H. Zimmermann in Leipzig and N. Simrock in
Berlin produced numerous editions of Sarasate’s Spanische Tänze, as well as of his other
short compositions in a Spanish style. Senff was most active in the 1880s, while Simrock
published numerous editions just in the years of 1898 and 1899. The popularity of
Sarasate’s short Spanish pieces in the German market evinces both an ongoing familiarity
with these works and suggests German appreciation of them.
Sarasate’s French cultural ties are a complicating factor in the understanding of
audiences’ reception of the violinist’s “Spanishness.” He had resided in Paris from his
teenage years on and counted many of France’s foremost composers among his friends,
including Camille Saint-Saëns, Vincent d’Indy, and Eduard Lalo. According to Grange
Woolley, Sarasate seems to have viewed himself as more French than Spanish.146 The
1904-1910 edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians also indicates this,

145 “Foreign,” The Musical World, December 11, 1886.

146 Woolley, “Pablo de Sarasate: His Historical Significance,” 240.


speaking of Spain and France as the “two countries especially [Sarasate’s] own by birth
and adoption.”147
Sarasate’s routine performance of his own fantasy on themes from Carmen by the
French composer, George Bizet, illustrates his musical dual citizenship. He played his
Fantasia on Carmen across Europe, Britain, and America. In England and America, at
least, it was accepted as an essentially Spanish piece, a natural work for the Spanish vir-
tuoso to play, even if artistically inferior. A reviewer for a London concert on May 10,
1884, wrote: “The audience also found much to admire in his Fantasia on ‘Carmen’ and

the other show pieces he played on this occasion; but, as music of this class has no art
value, it does not call for criticism in this place.”148 The Carmen Fantasia was performed
in the same place on the program as Sarasate’s original Spanish compositions and was
thus relegated by the critics to the same sphere as those compositions.
Sarasate’s Spanish dances were routinely well-accepted by audiences and may in-
deed have been the most enjoyable part of the evening for the audience. Nevertheless,
critics routinely overlooked the pieces, and when they did write about them, they seemed
to misunderstand or disregard their cultural underpinnings. Sarasate continued to write
pieces influenced by specific Spanish cultures and locales, even though his international
audiences seem to have heard his works largely as generically Spanish.

Wieniawski, Bull, and Sarasate shared significant similarities. Each came from a
country whose political or economic weaknesses placed it on the edges of European cul-
tural life. The three violinists all composed short character pieces for the violin based on
the musical distinctives of their homelands. All three men spent at least some of their

147 Gustave Chouquet, “Sarasate, Pablo Martin Meliton de Sarasate Y Navascues,” Grove’s
Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 4 (New York: Macmillian, 1908), 224-25.
148 “Señor Sarasate’s Concerts,” The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 25 (1884): 339.

formative musical years in Paris and were also influenced by the virtuosic legacy of
Nicolò Paganini. The show pieces composed by the violinists were overlooked by critics
and enjoyed by audiences.
George Bernard Shaw highlighted the similarities between the three virtuosos in
one of his reviews, setting their musical aesthetic in direct contrast to that of the more
conservative Joachim. Shaw, as a critic, tended to side with those with Germanic musical
preferences and was not above making cutting remarks in reference to Sarasate’s playing
style and programming choices.149 However, in a fuller excerpt from the review quoted

earlier, Shaw used his inimitable prose to defend the “dance tunes and national airs” of
Sarasate, Wieniawski, and Bull:

Joachim is famous for the austerity of his repertoire. He will play

nothing meretricious: he stands inflexibly by the classics; …. But I
cannot, for the life of me, see that Joachim has any valid standard
of criticism. It seems to me that if he is prepared to tolerate second-
hand Mozart, faked by Spohr, and mechanical padding by Sgam-
bati, he is hardly in a position to turn up his nose at the free and
original compositions of Sarasate and Wieniawski…. I suggest that
the acceptance of conformity to any special form as the criterion of
worth in a musical composition is the snobbery of art. Imagine the
state of soul of a neophyte who should interpret Joachim’s precept
and example as meaning that any fiddler who considered folk mu-
sic beneath his notice would be entitled to consider himself as su-
perior in artistic rank to Ole Bull or Sarasate!150
Joachim respected works by composers such Ludwig Spohr and Giovanni Sgambati (an
Italian composer dedicated to instrumental music) because of their formal complexity.
Shaw, however, argued that some of the works championed by Joachim had significant
artistic weaknesses, while works Joachim despised, such as Wieniawski’s or Sarasate’s
show pieces, had aesthetic merit that the German violinist and his followers overlooked.
Shaw recognized value in the “free and original compositions” these virtuosos created

149 “Sarasate… played Mendelssohn’s concerto last Saturday. But I had as lief hear him play
Pop goes the Weasel as any classic masterpiece; and what is more, I believe he would himself just
as soon play one as the other.” Shaw, London Music, 127.
150 Ibid., 335.

and was irritated by the musical snobbery directed at them because of their choice of rep-
Despite the factors that link these three virtuosos, the significant correlations
should not overshadow the distinct approaches they had to integrating their cultural heri-
tages into their careers as world-renowned soloists. The differences in their careers pro-
vide examples of the complexity of the interplay of exoticism, nationalism, and virtuosity
in nineteenth-century concert life. Bull was overtly nationalistic in his political stance for
Norwegian independence. Wieniawski, on the other hand, never took an active role in

seeking the revival of a Polish state. Sarasate, according to some who knew him, viewed
himself as being as much French as Spanish, though he actively cultivated his Spanish
persona in public.
From the perspective of audiences, both Bull and Sarasate were exotic. Sarasate
was exotic because of his Spanish birth and because of the Spanish dances he performed.
His exoticism was also evident in the way critics tended to feminize him, as Spain itself
was feminized as the mysterious “other.” As Shaw said in another of his reviews, audi-
ences saw Sarasate as “a black-haired romantic young Spaniard, full of fascinating tricks
and mannerisms.”151 However, Ole Bull was viewed as exotic in a different way. He was
seen as the “natural” violinist, bringing the wildness of the Norwegian landscape into
concert halls around Europe and North America. He was still perceived as “other,” but
without the sexual undertones or the subtle feminization ascribed to Sarasate.
Wieniawski’s Polish origins seem to have had little importance for his audiences
outside of Poland. His persona evinced neither the sensual southern exoticism of Sarasate
or the northern naturalism of Bull. It is primarily Wieniawski’s compositions that show
the nationalist and exotic aspects of Wieniawski’s career. While he did not present him-
self personally as exotic, the polonaises and mazurkas that he composed were exotic to

151 Ibid., 127.


listeners outside of Poland and expressed nationalistic ideals to Polish audiences.

Wieniawski could have chosen to compose no polonaises or mazurkas and limited his
bravura works to opera fantasies and character pieces. His composition of Polish dances
over the course of his career indicates that the music of his homeland was nevertheless
important to him.
A major element in both Sarasate and Bull’s perceived exoticism was their will-
ingness to perform folk music from their own lands—or compositions evoking folk mu-
sic—on stage. Bull improvised on Norwegian folk tunes and included traditional tunes in

his compositions as well. Sarasate drew on a wealth of dance styles from all over Spain.
Though audiences were often unfamiliar with the sources of Bull and Sarasate’s works,
they recognized the folk elements and responded positively to the combination of folk
tunes and bravura showmanship.
The show pieces examined in this paper formed an important part of each violin-
ist’s career. Though musicological research may have largely overlooked these works in
critical literature, thereby unintentionally perpetuating certain nineteenth-century preju-
dices, these compositions provide valuable insight into the careers of the violinists who
originally performed them. Their popularity with nineteenth-century audiences is mir-
rored in the reactions of audiences today, who still enjoy these works when modern vio-
linists play them in recital or as encores after concerto performances. An understanding
of the cultural trends underlying the creation of the exotic compositions of Wieniawski,
Bull, and Sarasate can heighten our appreciation of these small but entertaining works.


Article by Mr. T. E. B., published in The Musical World, April 20, 1861

It is fortunate for the disciples of art that there are more roads than one to
excellence, and that to achieve success it is not necessary to scale the very top-
most height of eminence. If none but Shakespeares and Miltons were acknowl-
edged poets, none but Raphaels and Correggios painters, the young artist’s ambi-
tion would be cooled at the outset; few but the outrageously bold would think of
entering the field of competition, and the world would be deprived of that mix-
ture and variety of sensations which makes one of the greatest delights of exis-
tence. It is part of the impulse of human nature to seek after recreation as a relief
from toil or thought. We turn from Hamlet and the Excursion, to Beppo and the
Fudge Family, with a pleasure borrowed from the powerful contrast these works
afford. The performance of the Messiah or Elijah in the morning may be grate-
fully followed in the evening by a hearing of La Sonnambula or L’Elisir d’Amore
at the opera. No one thinks of comparing Bellini with Handel, or Donizetti with
Mendelssohn; their works, nevertheless, are constituted to fill the mind with
pleasing images, to recall tender associations, to soften and chasten the heart. In
their way they fulfill the destinies of art as much as the sublimer compositions of
the great masters. The mind, as well as the body, to pursue its state of health, re-
quires its alternatives; and tonics and stimulants in both must be exchanged for
emollients and sedatives. It is as requisite we should have gentle as well as excit-
ing pleasures. Sometimes inferior power exercises an influence where the highest
excellence would fail. Nay, the comparatively bad will frequently meet with its
admirers, because it falls at an opportune time when any change would be wel-

M. Ole Bull is a fiddler of great repute, after his fashion. His name is in
circulation throughout many parts of the globe. America, North and South, Brit-
ish and Federal, United and Disunited States, are cognizant of his deeds. Up-
wards of twenty years ago he astonished all London—which some years previ-
ously Paganini had astonished—by his great executive powers and the peculiari-
ties of his style. M. Ole Bull has been denominated the “successor” of Paganini.
“Follower” or “imitator” would have been a more even and pertinent designation.
The Norwegian violinist has nothing in common with the Italian, except the
strangeness of his manner and his eccentricities. But the eccentricities of Pagan-
ini were redeemed by perfect accomplishment, whereas those of M. Ole Bull are
simply recommended by their grotesqueness and novelty. If fiddling had been re-
stricted to legitimate playing, Paganini, we have no doubt, would have surpassed
all rivalry, as he did in the fantastic school, since he possessed every individual
quality which constitutes the great violinist. But the Scandinavian virtuoso pos-
sesses those only which appertain to the inferior school. He has unusual com-
mand over the resources of the instrument; his execution is surprising; his
double-stopping wonderful, his “harmonics” extraordinary—or rather, let us say,
would be, if all were achieved without a flaw. But this is not the case. M. Ole
Bull, even in his bravura playing, cannot always satisfy the sensitive and cunning
ear. That which astonishes and delights vulgar audiences, does not please con-
noisseurs. Not being perfect, it is “the attempt and not the deed.” The Norwegian

violinist, therefore, must not seek for his laurels at the hands of professors of the
instrument, nor of those who know what true fiddle-playing means; but from av-
erage uninformed audiences, who prefer high excitement to solid gratification,
who think everything extravagant must be necessarily good, and who prize all
accomplishments in art in proportion as they are farthest removed from the sim-
ple and the natural. Nine-tenths of the world are composed of such, and on these
M. Ole Bull may reckon for his patrons and supporters; and as long as he has
such a host to cry aloud his praises, he need not fear that his popularity will be
endangered by rival purists and legitimatists in the art of fiddling, since, in real-
ity, he does not belong to the Guild. It is well, therefore, as we have said at the
commencement, that there are more roads to eminence in art than one; since, if
legitimacy alone constitutes the direct pathway to excellence in fiddling, M. Ole
Bull would never have attained his present renown.


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