Friday, July 25, 2014

Capriccio Italien

TCM is airing the short Capriccio Italien tomorrow morning a little after 8:00 AM, or immediately following Julius Caesar (6:00 AM, 121 min).

I have to admit I have no idea what the point of this short was. After all, people could get classical music on the radio, and this was the early days of television when high-minded programmers would actually show classical music. I'd guess th MGM Orchestra had a day or two where they weren't needed to play the score to one of MGM's upcoming releases, so somebody higher up decided it wouldn't be a bad idea to stick them on one of the soundstages and have them perform a piece of classical music, which is Pyotr Tchaikovsky's "Capriccio Italien". Now, I happen to think it's a reasonably nice piece of music, but simply filming the MGM Orchestra playing it seems kind of pointless. This short was released in June, 1953 in conjunction with the aforementioned Julius Caesar. That's a couple of months before How to Marry a Millionaire, the first film made in Cinemascope. That movie, in order to show off what Cinemascope could do, had a prelude sticking a Cinemoascope camera in front of Fox's studo orchestra, and having them play some music. It has no bearing to the movie, but it shows that dammit, you can put an entire orchestra on camera, something which Capriccio Italien rarely achieves. How to Marry a Millionaire is also in Technicolor, while Capriccio Italien is in old-looking black and white. Either the orchestra had a free day to make this short, or somebody wanted arhcival footage of the MGM Orchestra. I can't think of any other reason to make this short.

And possibly, they don't even play the whole piece. The MGM short has a running time of 10 minutes, while other versions of "Capriccio Italien" put up on Youtube by orchestras run 14 minutes or longer. (I've never timed it when it shows up on the local classical music station.) So give it a watch, and wonder what they were thinking.

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