Tchaikovsky / Capriccio Italien / Ormandy – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Capriccio Italien / Ormandy

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This is a CBS White Arrows “360 Sound” LP with DEMO DISC sound and the BEST performance we have ever heard. In our experience there is no combination of sound and performance that can beat Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra captured on this Columbia record. Ormandy is on fire here! As good as the famous Kondrashin on RCA is (LSC 2323), the sound on both the Shaded Dog copies we had on hand and the Classic Records reissue (which is very good by the way) could not begin to match this wonderful pressing.

We’ve had copies of the album in the past, but they sure never sounded like this! From both an audiophile and music lover’s perspective you would have a hard time finding a record that holds this much appeal to both groups.

Capriccio Italien

Dynamic and ALIVE. Jump out of the speakers Demo Disc Sound! So spacious and 3-D. Tons of weight and power down low.

We grade this side A++ to A+++. A little more extension up top and you would have yourself a nearly flawless record.

Capriccio Espagnol

The Most Exciting, Colorful Performance of all time — Ormandy gets everything out of this famous work on this Columbia recording.

Huge Wall to Wall Demo Disc sound, with the kind of IMMEDIACY that would make the folks at Mercury jealous.

We grade this side the same as side one, A++ to A+++. The loudest massed violin parts have a touch of Columbia hardness. That said, I would put this record in the top 1% of the Columbia recordings I’ve played. You will find very few Living Stereos and Deccas with this kind of sound, that I can assure you.

From the Liner Notes

Tchaikovsky possessed a remarkable talent for instrumentation, instinctively scoring his works to obtain a maximum variety of color and the widest possible range of tonal effects. His “Capriccio Italien”, vibrant with the raw colors of its Italian song and dance rhythms, is one of his most popular works and shows the composer’s complete mastery of orchestration. Its music passes vigorously from the opening trumpet call (echoes of the Cuirassiers) through a slightly melancholy phase to a climax of power and brilliance reminiscent of the popular Italian dance, the Tarantella.

Wikipedia’s Entry for Capriccio Espagnol

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 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 piece is often lauded for its orchestration, which features a large percussion section and many special techniques and articulations, such as in the fourth movement when the violinists, violists, and cellists are asked to imitate guitars (the violin and viola parts are marked “quasi guitara”). Despite the critical praise, Rimsky-Korsakov was annoyed that the other aspects of the piece were being ignored. In his autobiography, he wrote:

The opinion formed by both critics and the public, that the Capriccio is a magnificently orchestrated piece — is wrong. The Capriccio is a brilliant composition for the orchestra. The change of timbres, the felicitous choice of melodic designs and figuration patterns, exactly suiting each kind of instrument, brief virtuoso cadenzas for instruments solo, the rhythm of the percussion instruments, etc., constitute here the very essence of the composition and not its garb or orchestration. The Spanish themes, of dance character, furnished me with rich material for putting in use multiform orchestral effects. All in all, the Capriccio is undoubtedly a purely external piece, but vividly brilliant for all that. I was a little less successful in its third section (Alborada, in B-flat major), where the brasses somewhat drown the melodic designs of the woodwinds; but this is very easy to remedy, if the conductor will pay attention to it and moderate the indications of the shades of force in the brass instruments by replacing the fortissimo by a simple forte.

TRACK LISTING

Side One (Tchaikovsky)

Capriccio Italien
Waltz from “Engene Onegin”

Side Two (Rimsky-Korsakov)

Capriccio Espagnol
Bridal Procession from “Le Coq D’Or”