Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34, is the common Western title for an orchestral work based on Spanish folk melodies and written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1887. Rimsky-Korsakov originally intended to write the work for a solo violin with orchestra, but later decided that a purely orchestral work would do better justice to the lively melodies. The Russian title is Каприччио на испанские темы (literally, Capriccio on Spanish Themes). The Capriccio consists of five movements and is scored for 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes (one doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp and strings.[
The work has five movements, divided into two parts comprising the first three and the latter two movements respectively..
- The first movement, Alborada, is a festive and exciting dance, typically from traditional asturian music to celebrate the rising of the sun. It features the clarinet with two solos, and later features a solo violin with a solo similar to the clarinet’s.
- The second movement, Variazioni, begins with a melody in the horn section. Variations of this melody are then repeated by other instruments and sections of the orchestra.
- The third movement, Alborada, presents the same asturian dance as the first movement. The two movements are nearly identical, in fact, except that this movement has a different instrumentation and key.
- The fourth movement, Scena e canto gitano (“Scene and gypsy song”) opens with five cadenzas — first by the horns and trumpets, then solo violin, flute, clarinet, and harp — played over rolls on various percussion instruments. It is then followed by a dance in triple time leading attacca into the final movement.
- The fifth and final movement, Fandango asturiano, is also an energetic dance from the Asturias region of northern Spain. The piece ends with an even more rousing statement of the Alborada theme.
A complete performance of the Capriccio takes around 16 minutes
Use in film
- Capriccio Espagnol, Op.34 is played during the opening credits and as the Spanish Carnaval background music during Josef von Sternberg‘s film The Devil Is a Woman (1935), credited on screen as ‘Music based on Rimsky-Korsakoff’s “Spanish Caprice” and Old Spanish Melodies’.
- Excerpts were heard in the fictional 1947 biopic of Rimsky-Korsakov, Song of Scheherazade.
- A recording by “Philharmonia Slavonica” featured in the film Brokeback Mountain (2006). The “Philharmonia Slavonica” is pseudonymous group that appears on a number of recordings of the bargain-record producer Alfred Scholz. The performances attributed to them are often by the Austrian Radio (ORF) Orchestra.
- A recording by the Moscow Radio Symphony in the film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)