Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov Capriccio Espagnol

First Movement video
Third Movement video
Fourth Movement video

This fun, flavorful piece is a staple of the first round of almost every audition. It is also on many festival and university auditions. The first movement is full of spice, and it is important to get the flavor right by listening to many different recordings. I feel that the off-beats are of prime importance, and one must feel them strongly in order to play with the proper rhythmic vitality while not rushing. The clarinet has two big calls in the short, introductory first movement, which are echoed in the third movement. It is important to play them ff and con forza. Committees are generally assessing how beautiful your tone is in loud dynamics, in addition to judging your trills, general technical prowess, and musicianship. Pay extra attention to proper articulations and not letting them interfere with your fingers or phrasing.

Your trills MUST be consistent. If you cannot play double trills on the eighth-notes, in other words five notes (and almost noone can), then just play a triplet. Spread the triplet out across the eighth-note. The tempo is quite fast so it will not sound slow. If you play the trill too fast, the eight-note then becomes too short, and the flavor of the music is lost. This is not to say that the trill notes should be legato - they should be slightly separated, just not short.

Dip slightly dynamically with a small taper on the first note of the solo, and cresc. through the following five eighth-notes to the next dotted eight-note and continue this pattern though a second cresc. that continues through the third bar of the solo until you arrive at the first trill note. Each time you have 16th notes, they should lead to the next trill note with a cresc.

The second solo is much like the first, but with more difficult articulations. Also, the beginning of the call has more opportunity for "peaks" and "valleys" of phrasing that follow the altitude of the pitches in the first four measures. Dim. on the falling arpeggios and cresc. on the alternating 16th notes. Do not play your subito p early at all, and make sure you project when playing the p.

If you have trouble completing each of the calls in one breath, you must work on exercises to increase the length of phrases you can play through increasing your capacity and using your air more efficiently. There are many more air-taxing solos in the repertoire, and you must be able to play them in one breath.

The third movement is very similar to the first movement, the main difference being the key (and clarinet), and the switch in roles for the violin and clarinet. The big solo starts in the 11th bar after K. Play mf here, and f at the brilliante - though in some situations, ff may be needed. Return to pp when marked, and again to f each time the 32nd notes come back. Do not play the arrival eighth-notes long, but with the same flavor as the other eighth-notes in this movement. Start the long low C p and be careful not to change the tone or pitch when crescendo-ing. Practicing the sextuplet 32nd notes is best done daily, as part of your warm-up. Play them slow-to-fast every day with a metronome, and you'll be able to maintain the clarity and brilliance that will impress conductors, committees, and audiences.

The fourth movement, for the clarinet, starts with a duet in octaves with the flute. Play up the shortness and accents, but keep strict rhythm at auditions. Listen to the strings in your head or in reality to get a great idea of the evocative feelings in the music. In performance you can add some flavorful rubato if you work it out ahead of time with the flutist. A rubato suggestion I like is to play the first 16th note with a tiny pause after it, rushing the other three to catch up to the downbeat in time.

The clarinet cadenza is the least interesting of all the cadenzas in this movement, but it has many possible interpretations that can make it more interesting. Often, you hear people just play one straight-line accellerando. I find this much too boring. Play the first note in imitation of the Tam-Tam strike right before it: mf and with a quick swelling of dynamic so that the peak is slightly after the attack of the note. Follow this by a long-ish decay, using the clarinet's wonderful pp range to bring the audience to you. Play the next seven notes in an exploratory manner - cadenzas should sound improvised! I like to cresc. up to the G expressivly, pivot emotionally on it, then relax back down to the A with dolce. Play the next 9 notes moderato, with a short pause, then a fast 11 notes followed by only as much space as needed to show articulation before playing the last 15 notes as fast as you can. Having practiced the third movement diligently, this run should be no problem. Watch pitch and tone on your dim. and hear the oboe solo in your head for proper timing at auditions.