Sarasate: Zapateado (Spanish Dance Op 23 Nº 2): For Cello

Here is a free sheet music download of Sarasate‘s “Zapateado” from his Spanish Dances Op 23 (originally for violin and piano), arranged here for cello. “Zapato” means “shoe” in Spanish and when we hear this piece it is easy to imagine that “Zapateado” might mean “foot-tapping”. This is the partner piece to Sarasate’s “Playera”. Although the two pieces could not be more different, both were written by Sarasate in the summer of 1879, in San Sebastian (Spanish Basque Country). Zapateado is the “fiesta”……. and Playera is the “dreamtime”.

As with most of Sarasate’s music, Zapateado (Spanish Dance Opus 23 Nº 2) was originally written for violin. This cellofun version is a “fourth-generation” transcription because its starting point is not the original violin version, nor Feurmann’s (original key and freakishly high/difficult) transcription but rather Leonard Rose’s arrangement. This means that there are quite enormous differences between our version and the original violin version.

The original violin version is very virtuosic with many passages that are quite simply unplayable for the ordinary cellist in their literal transcription for the cello, even when we transpose the key down a fifth. Many cellists still play this “literal transcription” but it is so difficult that it converts what should be a totally “fun” and “folkloric” piece into a complex showcase of circus pyrotechnics, rather like a Paganini Caprice. While Rose removes quite a lot of the greatest difficulties in his arrangement, this cellofun version goes another step further down the line of making the piece accessible to “ordinary” cellists. In the cellofun version, in comparison with Rose’s transcription, double-stops have been removed, fast artificial harmonic passages are played as normal notes sul ponticello and some very high passages are played sul ponticello one octave lower. While all those changes to Rose’s version have been made to make the piece “easier”, the substitution of the left-hand pizzicatos by bowed notes has been done to make those notes actually audible: otherwise they are just buried by the busy piano accompaniment.

To make the piece playable on the cello, even a great virtuoso like Rose transposed it down a fifth from the original violin key. Therefore the original piano accompaniment to the violin version cannot be used for the cello version, but the piano part from Rose’s transcription goes perfectly also with this cellofun version. We offer here a piano part laid out in such a way as to facilitate the page turns for the pianist.

Even transposed down a fifth, this is a “high” piece. Most of it lies on the A string, and only a very few notes are on the lower strings. The great majority of the modifications made for the “Easier Version” involve simply transposing the highest passages down an additional octave.

  1. Edited Performance Version
  2. Clean Performance Version
  3.   Easier Version
  4.   Piano Score
  1. For Playing With Pre-recorded Accompaniment: EDITED
  2. For Playing With Pre-recorded Accompaniment: CLEAN

Two play-along audios of the piano accompaniment can be found here below. The first is “played” with great rhythmic freedom, while the second is much more metronomic. If we actually download them then we can change the basic tempi with the wonderfully useful and simple Amazing Slowdowner program. This could be very useful because this is a fast piece and we will definitely need to practice it at a slower tempo than that of these “performance-speed” accompaniments.

It is very hard to organise the “play-along” accompaniment track in such a way as to be able to do some rubato without “losing” the “pianist”. But if we do no rubato then this charming piece loses a lot of its humour (and its humanity!), becoming a somewhat mechanical moto perpetuo. For this reason, the accompaniment track comes in two versions: one with lots of tempo changes and rubato, and the other with much less rhythmic freedom. The molto-rubato version will take some getting used to and will need to be played with the special cello part, written out in such a way as to make the rhythmic freedoms intelligible and with cues for those places where rhythmic notes have been added to the accompaniment as guides. To successfully navigate this rhythmically-freer version it is probably a good idea to first sing the cello part with the accompaniment while reading the piano score, rather than trying to play it directly on the cello. The following link opens a very “home-made” video performance of this transcription, played with the “rhythmically-free” pre-recorded accompaniment:

Zapateado: Video Performance

Here is the rhythmically-freer version:

And here is the straight(er) version: