Fast, Faster, Fastest: Zigeunerweissen, the one and… infinite?

Maybe it was the recent Hidden Brain episode on Maya Shankar’s path from violin virtuoso to policymaker, or perhaps it was numerous viewings of Seijun Suzuki’s avant-garde film of the same name, but whatever the reason, I’ve gotten rather intrigued by various recordings of Pablo de Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweissen”—just tumbling headlong down the rabbit hole of its insanely fast ending with that mind-blowing pizzicato. Each performance by virtuoso violinists brings a new layer of nuance and idiosyncratic interpretation to this iconic piece.

At almost a full minute under the Itzhak Perlman recording (once you subtract out the seconds of silence), Julia Fischer’s precise yet emotive performance is stunning. But to pick a favorite among these exceptional performances would be to grossly and inadequately shortchange the nature of these extraordinary violinists and of Sarasate’s work.

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