orchestra and orchestration


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orchestra and orchestration,

an orchestra is a musical ensemble of mixed instruments based on strings and winds, under the direction of a conductor, employing four classes of instruments: strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. It is the principal large instrument ensemble of Western music from the 18th to the 20th cent. Orchestration is the scoring of a piece of music so that it can be played by specific instruments.

Instruments of the Orchestra

The strings, except the harp, have several players for each part, the others usually only one. The strings are the bowed violinviolin,
family of stringed musical instruments having wooden bodies whose backs and fronts are slightly convex, the fronts pierced by two f-hole-shaped resonance holes. The instruments of the violin family have been the dominant bowed instruments because of their versatility,
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, viola, cello (or violoncello), double bass, and the plucked harpharp,
stringed musical instrument of ancient origin, the strings of which are plucked with the fingers. Harps were found in paintings from the 13th cent. B.C. at Thebes. In different forms it was played by peoples of nearly all lands throughout the ages.
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. The woodwinds are the fluteflute,
in music, generic term for such wind instruments as the fife, the flageolet, the panpipes, the piccolo, and the recorder. The tone of all flutes is produced by an airstream directed against an edge, producing eddies that set up vibrations in the air enclosed in the
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, oboeoboe
[Ital., from Fr. hautbois] or hautboy
, woodwind instrument of conical bore, its mouthpiece having a double reed. The instruments possessing these general characteristics may be referred to as the oboe family, which includes the English horn, the bassoon,
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, English hornEnglish horn,
musical instrument, the alto of the oboe family, pitched a fifth lower than the oboe and treated as a transposing instrument. It has a pear-shaped bell, giving it a soft, melancholy tone.
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, clarinetclarinet,
musical wind instrument of cylindrical bore employing a single reed. The clarinet family comprises all single-reed instruments, including the saxophone. The predecessor of the modern clarinet was the simpler chalumeau, which J. C. Denner of Nuremberg improved (c.
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, and bassoonbassoon
, double-reed woodwind instrument that plays in the bass and tenor registers. Its 8-ft (2.4-m) conical tube is bent double, the instrument thus being about 4 ft (1.2 m) high. It evolved from earlier double-reed instruments in the 16th cent.
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, all of which appear in more than one size. The brass are French hornFrench horn,
brass wind musical instrument. Fundamentally a metal tube of narrow conical bore, it is curved into circles because of its great length. The horn ends in a wide flare. It is a development (c.1650) of the small hunting horn.
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, trumpettrumpet,
brass wind musical instrument of part cylindrical, part conical bore, in the shape of a flattened loop and having three piston valves to regulate the pitch. Its origin is ancient; records of a type of simple valveless trumpet are found in China from as early as 2000 B.C.
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, trombonetrombone
[Ital.,=large trumpet], brass wind musical instrument of cylindrical bore, twice bent on itself, having a sliding section that lengthens or shortens it and thus regulates the pitch. The descendant of the sackbut, it was developed in the 15th cent.
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, and tubatuba
[Lat.,=trumpet], valved brass wind musical instrument of wide conical bore. The term tuba is applied rather loosely to any low-pitched brass instrument other than the trombone; such instruments vary in size, and are known by various names.
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. The percussion are kettledrums (or timpani), snare and bass drumsdrum,
in music, percussion instrument, known in various forms and played throughout the world and throughout history. Essentially a drum is a frame over which one or more membranes or skins are stretched.
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, cymbalscymbals
, percussion instruments of ancient Asian origin. They consist of a pair of slightly concave metal plates which produce a vibrant sound of indeterminate pitch. Known in Europe since the Middle Ages, they were introduced into the European orchestra by Nikolaus Adam
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, triangletriangle,
in music, percussion instrument consisting of a steel rod bent into a triangle, open at one angle, and struck with a steel rod. Only since the end of the 18th cent. has it been an orchestral instrument, although it appeared in Europe much earlier.
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, and xylophonexylophone
[Gr.,=wood sound], musical instrument having graduated wooden slabs that are struck by the player with small, hard mallets. The slabs are usually arranged like a keyboard, and the range varies from two to four octaves.
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, to name only a few of the most frequently used.

The strings are the most important section of the orchestra; they are the most versatile and flexible and play almost continuously in most scores. The woodwinds are next in importance; they add color to the string sound and in some passages carry the melody. Of the brass, the French horn is the most useful, since it blends equally well with the woodwinds or the other brasses. The trumpets, trombones, and tuba are the "heavy artillery" of the orchestra; playing loudly, they provide a dynamic climax, but they are also effective in subdued passages as a group or individually.

The percussion instruments are used to emphasize rhythm. The kettledrums are most important, blending best with the rest of the orchestra and also being tunable to a definite pitch. The others stand out so prominently that they are most effective when used sparingly. The harp is principally a color instrument and does not share the importance of the bowed strings. The pianopiano
or pianoforte,
musical instrument whose sound is produced by vibrating strings struck by felt hammers that are controlled from a keyboard.

The piano's earliest predecessor was the dulcimer. The first piano was made c.
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 and organorgan,
a musical wind instrument in which sound is produced by one or more sets of pipes controlled by a keyboard, each pipe producing only one pitch by means of a mechanically produced or electrically controlled wind supply.
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 occasionally are used as orchestral instruments, apart from their role as soloists in concertos.

History

Early History of Orchestras and Orchestration

The orchestra in the modern sense of the word did not exist before the 17th cent. Previous instrumental ensemble music was chamber music, except for occasional ceremonies when as many instruments as were available would be massed together. Until well into the 17th cent. there was little thought of specifying what instrument should play a part; any available instrument with the proper range was used. The first known example of orchestration occurs in Giovanni Gabrieli's (see under Andrea GabrieliGabrieli, Andrea
, c.1510–1586, Italian organist and composer; possibly a pupil of Adrian Willaert. In 1536 he was a chorister at St. Mark's Cathedral, Venice, where, in 1566, he became organist at the second organ.
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) Sacrae Symphoniae (1597). MonteverdiMonteverdi, Claudio
, 1567–1643, Italian composer; first great figure in the history of opera. His earliest published works, a set of three motifs, appeared when he was only 15.
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's Orfeo (1607), one of the first operas, demands a large and varied group of instruments—all, in fact, that were available to him through his patron.

During the 17th cent. the violin family displaced the violsviol,
family of bowed stringed instruments, the most important ensemble instruments from the 15th to the 17th cent. The viol's early history is indefinite, but it is recognizable in depictions from as early as the 11th cent. During the second half of the 17th cent.
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, except the double-bass viol, as the principal strings of the orchestra. By the end of the century a division into four parts had become standard: first and second violins, violas, and cellos, with the double basses playing the cello part an octave lower. (Not until the 19th cent. did the cellos and basses frequently have different parts to play.)

Woodwinds appeared in the earliest orchestras, though infrequently and subordinate to the strings—usually two oboes and a bassoon, with flutes sometimes replacing the oboes. The flutes were established as regular orchestra members, playing together with the oboes, only late in the 18th cent. The trumpets, inseparable from the kettledrums through the 17th and 18th cent., were used occasionally in the 17th cent. and became standard in the orchestra by about 1700. The French horn was fully accepted by 1750. The trombone was used in church music even before the 17th cent. and occasionally in opera thereafter; it did not become a regular member of the symphony orchestra until after 1800.

Throughout the baroque period and into the second half of the 18th cent., the basso continuo was an integral part of the scoring and required that a harpsichordharpsichord,
stringed musical instrument played from a keyboard. Its strings, two or more to a note, are plucked by quills or jacks. The harpsichord originated in the 14th cent. and by the 16th cent. Venice was the center of its manufacture.
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 or some other chord-playing instrument fill in the harmonies above the figured bassfigured bass,
in music, a system of shorthand notation in which figures are written below the notes of the bass part to indicate the chords to be played. Called also thorough bass and basso continuo, it arose in the early 17th cent.
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. The treble and bass were strongly emphasized, while the middle parts were often left to the continuo alone. The orchestra was rather small at this time; Bach had as few as 18 players for his larger church works, and Handel usually used about 30.

The Eighteenth-Century Classical Orchestra

During the latter half of the 18th cent. the classical orchestra was gradually established through the disuse of the continuo and the acceptance of the clarinet. The abandonment of the continuo led to much greater independence in the string parts, which now had to fill the harmony unaided. Instead of both violin parts doubling the melody and the violas, cellos, and basses doubling the bass, there were now four distinct parts. The clarinet, like the flute, first appeared as an alternate for the oboe, but in the late works of Haydn and Mozart the orchestra was standardized, with pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, French horns, trumpets, and kettledrums in addition to the strings. All the wind instruments, especially the woodwinds, could carry the melody, providing desired changes of color.

Orchestras in the Nineteenth Century

In the 19th cent., beginning in the works of Beethoven, the brass took an increasingly prominent place. The trombone was used regularly, while the invention of the valve in 1813 soon made the horn and trumpet completely chromatic. All the brass thus became melody instruments, instantly available in the most remote keys. The horn section was increased to four early in the century, and the introduction of the tuba (c.1835–50) gave the brass a dependable contrabass register it had previously lacked. The woodwinds also were improved mechanically in the 19th cent., greatly enlarging their technical capabilities. Throughout the century the string section was expanded to balance the increasing numbers of wind players.

The scores of Mozart and Beethoven generally required an orchestra of about 40; those of Weber and early Wagner called for about 55; Wagner's Ring cycle (1854–74) called for about 110; and Strauss's Elektra for 115. Hector BerliozBerlioz, Louis-Hector
, 1803–69, French romantic composer. He abandoned medical study to enter the Paris Conservatory as a composition student. In 1830 his Symphonie fantastique was first performed in Paris, marking a bold new development in program music.
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 was highly influential in increasing awareness of orchestral color and in encouraging the use of a larger orchestra; his Traité d'orchestration, a fundamental work of its kind, envisioned an ideal orchestra of 465. After the climax of orchestral bulk in the works of Wagner, Mahler, Strauss, and several others, composers reacted against orchestral gigantism, first in the impressionismimpressionism,
in music, a French movement in the late 19th and early 20th cent. It was begun by Debussy in reaction to the dramatic and dynamic emotionalism of romantic music, especially that of Wagner.
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 of Debussy and his followers. They still used a large orchestra, but more restrainedly, making more distinctive use of the instruments and largely avoiding massive sonorities.

Innovations of the Twentieth Century

Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (1913) illustrates the early 20th-century interest in diverse instrumental combinations and original exploitation of the instruments' capabilities. In general, composers of the 20th cent. have continued exploring novel uses of instruments and have preferred a moderate-sized orchestra. Seventy-five to ninety players suffice for most 20th-century scores; a reduced, or chamber, orchestra of classical or baroque dimensions has also been much used. In this century the percussion section is used more prominently; new instruments have been devised and the playing of old ones varied.

Orchestras of Note

Among the world's many fine orchestras the following European ensembles have particular historic importance: the Leipzig Gewandhaus-Konzerte, not called by that name until later, began in 1743; the Philharmonic Society, London, was established in 1813; the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, Paris, began in 1828; the Wiener Philharmonische Konzerte, Vienna, began in 1842; the Berlin Philharmonisches Orchester was established in 1882.

Among the oldest American orchestras still in existence are the New York PhilharmonicNew York Philharmonic,
dating from 1842, the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States. The orchestra as it now exists is the result of the merger of the Philharmonic Society of New York with the National Symphony Orchestra (1921), the City Symphony (1923), and finally the
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, the St. Louis Symphony (1880), the Boston Symphony OrchestraBoston Symphony Orchestra,
founded in 1881 by Henry Lee Higginson, who was its director and financial backer until 1918. The orchestra performed at the Old Boston Music Hall for nearly 20 years until the 2,625-seat Symphony Hall was built in 1900; its concerts continue to be
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 (1881), the Chicago Symphony OrchestraChicago Symphony Orchestra,
founded in 1891 when businessman Charles Norman Fay invited the German-born conductor Theodore Thomas to establish and lead a new city orchestra; he conducted it until his death in 1905. Orchestra Hall, designed by Daniel H.
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 (1891), the Cincinnati Symphony (1895), and the Philadelphia OrchestraPhiladelphia Orchestra,
founded 1900 by Fritz Scheel, who was its conductor until his death in 1907. Scheel was followed by Karl Pohlig (1907–12). Under the leadership (1912–38) of Leopold Stokowski, the orchestra became one of the world's finest ensembles.
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 (1900).

Bibliography

For orchestra, see P. Hart, Orpheus in the New World: The Symphony Orchestra as an American Cultural Institution (1973); E. Prout, The Orchestra (2 vol., 1899, repr. 1988); P. Bekker, The Orchestra (1963). For orchestration, see K. Kennan, Technique of Orchestration (2d ed. 1970); N. Del Mar, Anatomy of the Orchestra (1982).