Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso

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The Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in A minor (French: Introduction et Rondo capriccioso en la mineur ), Op. 28, is a composition for violin and orchestra written in 1863 by Camille Saint-Saëns for the virtuoso violinist Pablo de Sarasate. Since its 19th-century premiere, it has continued to be one of Saint-Saëns's most popular compositions.[citation needed]


Camille Saint-Saëns, like many other French Romantic composers such as Édouard Lalo and Georges Bizet, held a deep interest in the style of Spanish dance music.[citation needed] This style permeates his solo violin works, particularly the Havanaise, op. 83, and the Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso.[citation needed] In 1859, the 15 year old violin prodigy Pablo de Sarasate approached the celebrated composer and commissioned a violin concerto, which the flattered Saint-Saëns proceeded to compose (this piece became Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 1 in A major).[citation needed] Four years later, in 1863, Saint-Saëns wrote yet another solo piece for Sarasate: The Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in A minor for violin and orchestra. Sarasate premiered this piece in Paris on April 4, 1867.[citation needed] Despite their later disagreements, Claude Debussy arranged the piece for two pianos in the earlier years of his career.[1]

Style and structure[edit]

The piece opens with a 36-bar theme in A minor, establishing key as well as rhythmic and harmonic themes. The orchestra supports the violin with block chord progressions while the soloist plays virtuosic arpeggios and chromatic scalar passages. Saint-Saëns destabilizes the rhythm of the soloist oscillating between syncopated rising arpeggios and falling eighth notes. In bar 18 the motion picks up when the tempo indication changes from Andante malinconico to animato and the soloist jumps into a rapid thirty-second note line.

In bar 37 the orchestra then takes over the rhythmic motion with a steady 6/8 pulse. The soloist then enters with the lilting syncopated melody of the rondo. Saint-Saëns employs the harmonic minor rather than the melodic minor mode to emphasize the innate Spanish flair of the melody. The violin sways down the melody in a scalar passage just to jump up again with dominant arpeggios and finally land on the second theme in bar 73. The second theme brings back the dotted eighth note theme from the introduction and ornaments it with trills and octave jumps in the solo and steady rhythmic accompaniment. The soloist then jolts into upward scalar patterns in bar 88 followed by falling arpeggios and one final flourish bringing back the rondo theme.[original research?]

After a short orchestral interlude and a violin imitation the rhythm takes on an even more unstable twist as the violin moves into 2/4 while the orchestra stays in 6/8. The pleading melody of the violin changes from a single line to a two voice double stop passage climbing up into the higher register of the instrument just to snap back to a quick and winding melody back in 6/8. With an extended falling chromatic scale and another upward flourish, the rondo theme returns and is shortly followed by a reiteration of the orchestral interlude in a new key which is again imitated by the violin.[original research?]

The solo then proceeds to the second theme but rather than returning to the first theme itself, it throws it off to the orchestra. The orchestra is brought to a stop when the soloist cuts through the texture with a rhapsodic triple-stop passage followed by a faster paced extended coda in A Major to finish the piece.[original research?]


Saint-Saëns intimate knowledge of violin technique is obvious in the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.[original research?] Most importantly, his choice of key allows the soloist to use harmonics on the tonic, dominant, and dominant of the dominant to bring brightness and color to the fast paced sea of notes as well as allowing the soloist to easily jump octaves for added flavor and texture.[original research?] The use of range as well shows off the violin’s capabilities. The melancholic introduction remains in a darker low range while the brighter coda stays on the E string for nearly the entire 32 bars. Also, the use of repeated staccato up bows implies that this piece was meant to be a show piece, showcasing both the instrument and the performer. Finally, the two most emotionally intense passages employ the use of multiple strings, emphasizing the power and harmony of the music.[original research?]


Performed by Elias Goldstein with the Depaul Symphony

performed by the Skidmore College Orchestra. Courtesy of Musopen

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