Hector Berlioz gave us the Symphonie Fantastique, with its spooky “Witches Sabbath” movement; today’s Video of the Week (just in time for Hallowe’en), is the terrifyingly difficult Scherzo Fantastique, better known as, the Ronde des lutins, or “Round of the Goblins,” written by Italian composer and violin virtuoso Antonio Bazzini.
Born in Brescia, Italy in 1818, Bazzini fell under the spell of the great Niccolò Paganini, whom he met as a teenager. The renowned virtuoso encouraged the young violinist to begin concertizing, and he soon became one of the most highly regarded instrumentalists of the day. Schumann and Mendelssohn were among his fans.
Bazzini enjoyed a successful touring career, and would later settle back in his native country to focus on composing, taking up the post of composition professor at the Milan Conservatory. Bazzini eventually became the director of the school, where his students included such Italian opera luminaries as Alfred Catalani, Pietro Mascagni, and the legendary Giacomo Puccini. During his lifetime, Bazzini was renowned for being firmly in the Paganini tradition of being a brilliant virtuoso-composer.
Fast forward to modern times, however, and few composers are remembered so exclusively for a single piece at the expense of their other works – Itzhak Perlman remarked that that the composer hadn’t written anything else because he’d used up all the notes in La ronde. It has all the hallmarks of a violin showpiece: false harmonics, ricochet bowings, double-stop tremolos, left hand pizzicato – and indeed it has remained a “go-to” when a performer wants to pull out all the stops for an encore.
Italian composer and violin virtuoso Antonio Bazzini (1818-1897)
Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” – John’s inspiration for this performance!
Heifetz 2020 student John Fawcett would make Antonio, Niccolò, and Itzhak proud with this rendition, joined by Heifetz faculty pianist Beilin Han, as part of a Stars of Tomorrow concert on Rubato: The Heifetz Virtual Concert Hall. Enjoy, and be sure to subscribe to get a fresh Video of The Week in your inbox every week!