How do you feel when something sounds like it is supposed to sound?  Do you smile to yourself with that knowing sense of recognition and feel nicely pleased that you are at one with the composer?  Or does it make you feel a bit on edge and cross that the composer is spoon-feeding you nothing but a stereotype?

Perhaps, if the piece is sufficiently absorbing and wonderful, you might forget yourself completely and let the music carry you away to the place where the composer wanted to send you?

Take this one.  Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien, Op 45.  What a wonderful aural feast, inspired by the composer’s visit to Rome in 1880, and his interpretation of all the sights and sounds of the carnival, markets and the ambience of the city during his 3-month stay.

This was one of the first works I learned to play as a young member of a full orchestra and I have very fond memories of performing it on various stages.  Here is the famous and fabulous Hallé Orchestra providing a crisp rendition, which I think gives a good sense of the day dawning (listen for the flutes early on to signify the sun washing over the roofs), the city waking up, and the gradual progress of daily life, culminating in evening revelry and celebration.

Because I know this piece so well, it is hard for me not to hear the story in it.  I like it that way.  What about you?



10 thoughts on “Comfort or cliché?

  1. I am always deeply grateful if I can hear the story in the music. 🙂 Most of the time I haven’t a clue, and I am the sort who likes to know what is going on and what I am supposed to be hearing.

  2. I had a listen again this morning. At first I wondered if the dawning could represent a dawn in Edinburgh, or any other city, but as the music progressed I decided that the music was particular to Rome, or as I imagine Rome would have been in 1880. Every city has its own sound. I expect Tchaikovsky captured his Roman visit perfectly. This must have been a fun piece to learn for your orchestra debut. 🙂

    1. Thank you for having another go with it, and for thinking about it so carefully. It would be interesting to know what an Italian thought about it, wouldn’t it, but I agree with you that the music seems to give a sense of Italy and Rome particularly. If a piece were to be written about Edinburgh, it would have to have bagpipes in it!! 🙂 🙂

  3. I’m not sure I had heard this piece before, and yet it feels familiar. Either because I have heard it or because it does tell a story in a familiar way. A lovely piece.

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