Rondeau fantastique sur un thème espagnol
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Rondeau fantastique sur un thème espagnol: "El Contrabandista" ("Fantastic Rondo on the Spanish Theme The Smuggler"), S. 252, is a classical musical composition for piano by Franz Liszt, written in 1836. The piece was published in 1837 as Liszt's Opus 5 No. 3, and was based on Manuel Garcia's popular aria "Yo que soy contrabandista" from his one-act zarzuela El poeta calculista. It lasts approximately 8 minutes according to the high tempo Liszt assigned, though most pianists play it slower (10–12 minutes) due to its incredible difficulty.
The fantasy is based on a short song for soprano female singer, guitar, and castanets. As with Liszt's other fantasies, it contains a complete exploration of the elements of the theme, with a slow section in the middle. After each excursion, the theme keeps coming back around as in a typical rondo. It has been hailed as one of the most technically challenging solo piano compositions in classical pianism. It contains a great quantity of effects and virtuoso feats, including chord tremolos with accompanying thirds, wide jumps, fast repetitive notes, and arpeggios and octaves at a breakneck tempo, keeping a deciso (decisive) attitude throughout. Compared to La campanella's infamous two-to-three octave jumps, the Rondeau's leaps are two octaves greater.
Liszt initially intended this piece as a bravura finale for his recitals, but hardly ever played it for unknown reasons. The modern concert pianist Mikhail Pletnev was eager to play it live, but gave up, calling it "unplayable". Internet artist Valentina Lisitsa has performed and recorded her interpretation on YouTube (in 2011), including an impromptu performance on a public upright piano in London's St. Pancras railway station in 2013. Leslie Howard played the piece at a festival of Spanish music in Madrid in 2015, having recorded it 19 years earlier as part of his complete survey of Liszt's works for solo piano.