Mikhail Glinka

Capriccio brillante on the Jota Aragonesa (Spanish Overture No. 1), for orchestra, G. ii3

    Description by Chris Boyes

    Mikhail Glinka left his native Russia for a European concert tour in the spring of 1844 after he was discouraged by the unfavorable reception of his opera, Ruslan and Lyudmila (1842), in St. Petersburg. Glinka intended to visit France and Spain and to become fully absorbed in each country's musical traditions. New orchestral compositions, which would be called fantasies pittoresques, would be written from the inspiration of folk melodies collected while away from Russia.

    After spending nine months in France, Glinka arrived in Spain in the summer of 1845. He first settled in the village of Valladolid, where he quickly assumed a pleasant social life. The Spanish people and their customs greatly impressed Glinka, as was shown through his comments in a letter to his mother. He wrote, "Spaniards are honorable, straightforward in their speech, unaffected, and not full of ceremony like the French." While there, Glinka became acquainted with Felix Castilla, a local merchant who was also an adequate guitarist. Castilla played for Glinka a traditional folk tune, the Jota Aragonesa, along with its many variations. This melody would become the basis of the only work that Glinka managed to complete during his time in Spain, the Capriccio brillante on Jota Aragonesa (1845). The piece came to be known also as the First Spanish Overture. The composition of the work was not begun until Glinka relocated to Madrid, the Spanish capital. Here, Glinka's social life was not as active, so he had spare time to compose.

    The Capriccio was modeled in the sonata form, as many of Glinka's earlier compositions had been. Yet, due to the tradition of the Jota Aragonesa and its variations, the Capriccio also had the sense of a free form, based on multiple variations. Glinka's later works would eventually stray away from sonata form in favor of freer, variational forms. Thus, this piece is often viewed as a transitional work in Glinka's catalog. The orchestration of the Capriccio is notable in its wide use of the multiple colors possible in an orchestral setting. Glinka does not resort to doubling parts excessively to produce a lush, full sound. The enormous amounts of instrumental combinations that Glinka goes through is quite amazing. Also of note is the use of harp and pizzicato strings to convey the sound of the acoustic guitar.

    Glinka wished to hear the freshly composed orchestral work while he was still in Spain, but this was not possible. The primary orchestra of Madrid was busy at the time with a ballet. Glinka was also worried that the Spanish public would not appreciate his attempt to integrate the Spanish sound into the Western tradition of music. Glinka was finally able to hear his work performed in 1848 in Warsaw, due to the graciousness of the Governor of Warsaw. The Capriccio was later given its first public performance in 1850 in St. Petersburg, although Glinka was not present.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Alto MCS 1312
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94086
    2009 Decca 4781490
    2008 Arte Nova Classics 654140
    2008 Svetlanov 38003
    2007 Warner Classics 2564698995
    2005 Brilliant 92617
    2005 Moscow Studio Archives 20016
    2003 Vista Vera 00035
    2003 Music & Arts CD1115
    2001 DG Deutsche Grammophon 469 253-2GP2
    2000 ASV 1075
    2000 Chandos 9861
    1999 ASV 1048
    1997 Le Chant du Monde RUS788 114
    1995 Mercury 434352
    1994 ESS.A.Y. 1030
    1992 Naxos 550086
    1990 CBS Records / Sony Classical 46287
    Manchester 141
    EMI Music Distribution 67726
    RCA 60308
    Iron Needle 1370
    Brilliant 92617/3
    EMI Music Distribution 63734
    Le Chant du Monde 278819
    Manchester 172
    Supraphon 110622
    Relief 1886
    Manchester 178
    Manchester 110
    EMI Music Distribution 65620
    The Radio Years 42