Rimsky-Korsakov Capriccio Espagnol Program Notes
Rimsky-Korsakov’s musical career began around aged 18, the same time he became a Navy Officer. At that time, he met four other largely self-trained amateur composers, all Russian and born between 1833-44: Balakirev, Borodin, Cui and Mussorgsky. (Nicolai was the youngest). They would be called The Five, or The Mighty Handful, and sought a compositional style embodying what their musical forbear, composer Mikhail Glinka (of Russlan & Lyudmila, etc.) had called Dzthe soul of Russian music. These can be heard in works like Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture, or perhaps Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, or Borodin’s Opera Prince Igor. Originally, Rimsky-Korsakov planned Capriccio Espagnol as a kind of Spanish-fantasy piece for violin solo and orchestra, but expanded it to one that masterfully exploits the full colors of the orchestra, while imagining Spanish scenery and life. Suggesting the bright sun of the Spanish morning, the first and third movements are both called Alborada. The second movement, Variazione, is in a calmer tempo, but not without passion. The fourth movement, Scene and Gypsy song begins with virtuosic cadenzas for upper brass, violin, flute then harp, before evoking a flamenco-esque dance, which gives way to a magical layering of saucy woodwind solos with the hint of a Muezzin’s call to prayer. All this, before it ramps up to the Finale, a Fandango featuring the dance’s customary castanets.