Exploring Sauret’s Études Caprices through the making of a first recording

Nazrin Rashidova

My doctoral research at the Royal Academy of Music reveals some of the artistic and critical discoveries and challenges encountered, tackled and documented during the preparation and delivery of a world premiere recording series of Émile Sauret’s 24 Études Caprices, op.64, issued by Naxos between 2017 and 2020. The first volume was featured on BBC Radio 3, and was also selected as a Critic’s Choice in American Record Guide. The remaining three volumes were recorded on the c. 1685 ‘Sauret’ Stradivari violin, most kindly loaned by John Ludlow. I am grateful and fortunate to have been awarded one of the most prestigious awards of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, The John Clementi Collard Fellowship (2018) and the Clarence Myerscough Award at the Royal Academy of Music (2018) in support of my research project. I express my greatest thanks to my research adviser, Professor Neil Heyde, for his invaluable expertise throughout all stages of the research.

The supreme 19th century violin virtuoso, composer and pedagogue, Émile Sauret carved himself an enviable reputation during his lifetime and was acclaimed by the greatest musicians of the century, including Brahms, Liszt, Tchaikovsky and Sarasate. Until recent times, Sauret has been predominantly remembered by violinists for the fiendishly difficult cadenza he composed to Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Composed during his professorial tenure at the Royal Academy of Music and published by Simrock in 1902, the 24 Études Caprices are a testament to his technical finesse and are dedicated to his student, the great English virtuoso Marjorie Hayward.

From Lecture Recital at the Royal Academy of Music (2019) | Image Credit: Dr A. T. Atalar

It became clear early in the process that Sauret’s fame in his lifetime has not been accompanied by a posthumous understanding of his musical personality and that I needed to build a detailed picture of his musical life to have a sense of who he was and what he represented. For an artist of his stature, acclaimed by some of the greatest musicians of the era, the gaps and absence of knowledge in Sauret’s biographical, performance, pedagogical and compositional data in major dictionaries, periodicals and journals surprised me. When I introduced my project to the Royal Academy of Music in 2016, the connection of the Études Caprices, op. 64 with the institution seemed to have been entirely lost.

'Sauret’s command of the violin is extraordinary.'

G B Shaw

My doctoral project speaks directly to my own interests and experience as a performer, teacher and researcher and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity in these last few years, to explore the technical world of a violin phenomenon whose technique was deemed or still is ... ‘unsurpassed’. My journey of ‘living-through’ Sauret’s fingerings, bowing, dynamic and phrasing indications in these specific pieces radially developed and redefined my perception of virtuosity and views on getting around the fingerboard, adding an even greater richness of approaches in playing and teaching. Having the invaluable opportunity to work with Sauret’s c.1685 Stradivari violin from the second volume of the recording series onwards, enriched my tactile relationship with the music and my understanding of the instrumental dimensions of the Études Caprices. I hope that the ways in which I have offered to communicate and present some of these details may awake interest and lead to further research. My sense of the wider importance of the project can be gained from the articles published in The Strad magazine and reviews featured in the American Record Guide, Fanfare, The Strad and Neue Musikzeitung magazines.

In the process of collecting a plethora of information on Émile Sauret, the more I stumbled on websites of his contemporaries, the more I felt he needed an independent identity in the digital age.

Thus, emilesauret.co.uk is born, out of a labour of love and a sense of obligation to reanimate our relationship with Émile Sauret in the present day.

Header Image: Final recording session (April 2019) with John Taylor, recording engineer. Image Credit: Nazrin Rashidova

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If you would like to find out more about this project, please don't hesitate to get in touch:

Nazrin Rashidova

Neil Heyde (Supervisor)

Project Status: Complete