Posted by Claire Whittle
Saturday 21st January, 2017

A Russian’s trip to Spain

AYO National Music Camp
Week 2, Orchestral Concert: Saturday 21 January, 4pm

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Capriccio espagnol 

Bishop Orchestra — Elim Chan, conductor   


Capriccio espanol started as a violin concerto in Rimsky-Korsakov’s mind,’ says Stephen Robinson, AYO National Music Camp oboe tutor. ‘He then decided to make it a suite and give the solo violin part to a number of instruments, which he’s very famous for in the sense of his orchestration, but it is a fantastic piece. Huge energy and all of these brilliant solos. The clarinet solo is the big one – absolutely ridiculous, and so much fun!’

Trombone tutor Nick Byrne also notes the inherent Russian influence in Rimsky-Korsakov’s writing. ‘Even though it’s Spanish music, the way he writes and the way he orchestrates is distinctly Russian. So it’s almost like a Russian’s trip to Spain – like you’ve actually been dropped in the middle of Spain. But it is much more music of the people – dances and energy of the street, the energy of life.’

Importantly, Stephen believes conductor Elim Chan will balance this strong Russian orchestration with the Spanish themes of the work.

‘It is an imitation of light, Spanish guitar singing music, even though there are full orchestral forces. But Elim can use a very large orchestra with incredibly fine detail, so I’m really looking forward to hearing her interpretation, all the dynamics, all of the contrast, all of the lightness, and all of the richness that will come. With her combination of strength and sensitivity, and sense of humour, I’m absolutely confident that she will control all those forces with real poise. That’s the sort of conductor she is.

‘What I hope the students get out of this week is – they’re getting their eyes opened. It’s one thing to hear it. It’s another thing to read it, and to practice – to actually be in the middle of it all with someone who’s got all the control in their hand, and witness how it’s not about the force in direction, it’s about coercion. It’s about releasing all the energy in the music and in the orchestra. You have to rediscover a performance every time, and you can only do that when you’ve prepared perfectly, but you’re not slavishly trying to do it in the same way every time – that’s the fun. It’s the same as looking up at the sky – today it’s crystal clear, other days there are some streaky clouds, but it’s all the same sky.’

– Claire Whittle*

* Words About Music participant at AYO National Music Camp 2017