The arrangement of the violins

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The arrangement of the violins

Post by srappoport » Fri May 05, 2006 1:13 pm

In one of the threads, I read that the Germans put the second violins to the right of the conductor, unlike our practice of having them next to the first violins. This raises some questions for me:

1. When orchestras first developed first and second violin sections, how were they placed? (This will tell us whether it was the Germans or the others who are adhering to the original set-up.)

2. Why did the divergence occur?

3. How is the sound different?

4. Did composers write with one or the other arrangement in mind?

5. Which do you prefer and why?

6. Does the difference matter depending on whether it is a full orchestra or a chamber orchestra?

7. If the separation works for an orchestra, why are the first and second violins together in a quartet?

8. Please answer the other questions that I should be asking but haven't thought of yet.

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Post by Barry » Fri May 05, 2006 1:55 pm

I assume at the direction of MD Eschenbach, the Philadelphia Orchestra has rearranged the seating of the strings the past couple years. The second violins are to the right of the conductor, the cellos are in the center and the basses are at the back left, behind the first violins.

Maybe that's the traditional German way of seating.
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Post by RebLem » Fri May 05, 2006 10:39 pm

Putting the first violins front and left and the second violins front and right was the way it was always done everywhere, to the best of my knowledge, until Stokowski came along and introducted the abomination of putting all the violins together. Since it was first introduced in Philadelphia, it is indeed ironic that that orchestra is the first to abandon it.
It was adopted to make life easier for conductors, at the expense of composer, music, and listener.

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Post by Dies Irae » Sat May 06, 2006 4:53 pm

It has nothing to do with tradition.

Many conductors, examining the scores they are about to perform will re-arrange orchestral seating to reflect what they feel are the demands of the music, and the best way to present it.

Pierre Monteux, for example, often split the first and second violins and just as often, had them seated next to each other on his left. In a performance I saw him give at Tanglewood of the Beethoven Ninth symphony he split them because of the unusual antiphonal writing between those sections, especially in the third and fourth movements. On the other hand, in Tschaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, he massed them on his left to accentuate the voluptuous sound that those composers gave to the violins.

But then again, not every conductor has/had the good sense and musicality of Pierre Monteux.

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Re: The arrangement of the violins

Post by jserraglio » Sun May 07, 2006 5:55 am

srappoport wrote:Why did the divergence occur? How is the sound different?
RebLem wrote:Putting the first violins front and left and the second violins front and right was the way it was always done everywhere, to the best of my knowledge, until Stokowski came along and introduced the abomination of putting all the violins together.
<div align ="center">Orchestral Layout </div>

Conductors and orchestras today tend to follow the disposition of instruments established in the 1930s by Leopold Stokowski. He broke with the arrangment that Toscanini, Koussevitzky, Klemperer, Kubelik and Boult had grown up with and were to continue to use to the end of their conducting careers. We illustrate an earlier, pre-Stokowski layout below.

<div align ="center"><img src="" width="375" height="300"> </div>
Always innovative, Stokowski changed the layout of an orchestra to suit different halls' acoustics. In the change that was most copied by other orchestras at the time and is still used widely today, Stokowski moved the 2nd violins next to the 1st violins, and placed the violas and cellos sequentially to the 2nd violinist's left. The double-basses were positioned behind and between the violas and cellos. In addition, the percussion was moved to the back of the orchestra. We illustrate this revised layout below.

<div align ="center"><img src=""width="375" height="300"></div>
Stokowski changed his orchestra's layout in particular to overcome problems experienced during early monaural recording. The higher strings tended to play the tune while the lower strings were restricted to the accompaniment. By physically separating the higher and lower strings, Stokowski's recordings emphasised more clearly the role within the musical score that each of different string sections played. Today, however, when recording is invariably in stereo, the Stokowski layout is thought, by some, to create a lopsided effect drawing the listener's attention to the left where the high strings are sitting so spoiling the overall balance.
There has been some interest in returning to the earlier pre-Stokowski layout. For this reason. it should not be assumed that today there is only one standard orchestral layout.
Stokowski's interest in optimal orchestral layouts in the recording studio led to some remarkable results. ... trallayout[/quote]


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