"Introduction et Rondo capriccioso" op. 28 is among those compositions for violin and orchestra which Saint-Saens wrote for his Spanish friend Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908). This great violin virtuoso had been the most prominent figure among the violinists of his time due to his brilliant and temperamental way of playing that was an inspiration for many composers. He also performed this piece for the first time at Paris in 1864. Since then, this concert piece in one movement consisting of a slow introduction (Andante malinconico) and a rhythmically capricious Allegro ma non troppo (reminding of Spanish folk music as a homage to the bearer of the dedication) belongs to the best-liked works of its kind, especially at music contests and popular concerts.
While the version for violin and piano had been arranged by Georges Bizet, the adaption for two pianos was done by Claude Debussy in 1889, full of pianistic effects which make one forget the colourful instrumentation of the original. Like almost all musicians of his generation the young Debussy was an honest admirer of Saint-Saens who had not got a reputation until very late in his life. After 1900, however, he openly uttered his disappointment as Saint-Saens did not develop his style any further but opposed and criticised the young French composers like Debussy and his contemporaries.
(Performance by: Jean-François Heisser and Georges Pludermacher)