Jack Bell, Mallet Soloist: Paganini and Sarasate

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Paganini played on marimba

Paganini played on Marimba

I was a 19-year old sophomore at the time.  The auditorium was filled to capacities, including the side balconies overlooking the stage.  The response to this performance was the first standing ovation to have occurred during a student recital.

A very close estimate is that approximately 2,800 16th notes were played at 206 beats per minute in 3 minutes and 30 seconds with a substantially high rate of accuracy.

I performed Paganini’s Perpetual Motion For Violin as a marimba solo with piano accompaniment on a recital series held at the Oberlin College campus in 1963.

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Sarasate played on marimba

Sarasate played on Marimba

To appeal to Eastern exoticism of the German and Austrian musical appetites of the day, Sarasate composed a concert work for violin and piano in 1878 based on Hungarian melodies that he titled “Zigeunerweisen”(Gypsy Aires).  The closing section of the piece is a blazing dance in the most brilliant Gypsy manner energized by an entire fusillade of pyrotechnics.
Hearing this piece lead to my fascination of the challenge to perform this last section as a marimba solo with piano accompanist, arranged by my first teacher, Harold Firestone.

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