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34

A good conductor: Provides musical leadership Unifies the ensemble in the musical moment Decides on the how of music that cannot be communicated in the score Communicates to the ensemble non-verbally At the top level of your question, indeed, there exist ensembles that perform without a conductor. These ensembles are often heavily rehearsed, and quite ...


25

You ask "if most things are known in advance"---but who made those advance decisions? A conductor's role begins long before the actual performance, even before rehearsals begin. S/he makes decisions such as what tempo "Allegra ma non troppo" really means, how loud forte really is, how to coordinate one hundred people to play rubato together, how to balance ...


18

I found this: Circumstances of history, mostly, but also acoustics. The first orchestras (in the late 1600s) were mainly string instruments. A pair of oboes was sometimes used to strengthen the first and second violin parts. Soon composers were writing separate parts for the oboe, exploiting its singing tone as a contrast to the violins. The bright, ...


14

Yes. High-paid studio musicians are all expected to sight read perfectly on the first read. There are even programs to illustrate and develop the skill for younger musicians. Many movie soundtracks are recordings of first-time sight reading.


14

It is often a matter of tradition inside the orchestra that becomes out of control for conductors. When they create their own orchestra they have the pleasure to decide this for themselves. The conservatism from musicians has several reasons: Some Orchestra have a concert hall with a large organ which is tuned for this frequency Wind players usually ...


14

Oboes most certainly can be tuned (perhaps less tuning range than other instruments). If there's a piano (or even worse, an organ :-) ) involved, typically the oboist will tune to the piano first, then let the orchestra tune to the oboe. String orchestras typically tune to the first violin; chamber ensembles work it out one way or the other. FWIW wind ...


12

Small ensembles in the pop and folk idiom can all go by the term of band; this answer will focus on what are referred to as "large ensembles." In the jazz context, the name of orchestra was historically applied in order to give credence to groups that would otherwise have been marginalized by the cultural mainstream and racism. That term has now been ...


12

Band is a very imprecise term. Many swing bands contain stringed instruments (Double Bass obviously or Bass Guitar) and some have contained string sections. Pop bands can contain almost anything. Orchestras can contain almost anything as well, but pretty much but tend to be Strings Woodwinds Brass Percussion In symphonic situations. Philharmonics tend ...


12

Posaunen: Trombones. Btb: Bass Tuba. Pk: Pauken = tympani. zu 3 = all three trombones play the same notes.


12

Wagner was German, so the instrument names are in German. (Die Posa is Latin for "placed on") Yes, Pos. is short for Posuane, German for trombone. Btb. is short for Basstuba, German for Bass tuba (duh :P) Pk. is short for Pauken, German for Timpani zu 3 is short for zusammen drei, German for (literally) "three together"


11

from my bookmarks: http://www.sheetmusictrade.com/ http://imslp.org/wiki http://icking-music-archive.org/index.php http://www1.cpdl.org/wiki/ http://www.mfiles.co.uk/sheet-music.htm http://www.bh2000.net/score/ http://www.rowy.net/sheet_music.html http://www.free-scores.com/index_uk.php3 plus in French: http://www.lespartitions.info/gratuites/index.php ...


10

Here is a comprehensive chart from Yale University Library which provides the names of all the major orchestral instruments, and more, in English French German Italian Russian (albeit in the Latin alphabet) Spanish It does not provide a list of the common abbreviations like the ones in your example score. It provides the full names of each instrument in ...


10

In an orchestral situation, it is a terrible idea to rely on the conductor - they may not be able to cue you or instead are going to give a more important cue. Just because you are not playing does not mean you're allowed to sit and wait for a bus. Scores that have been edited well will have "cues" written in the parts, so, say you zone out accidentally or ...


8

Essentially your intuition is correct--there must be differences for the publisher to have found it necessary to print a new set of music. In the cases you mentioned, the music was originally written for the ballet; subsequently the composer went back and made some editorial decisions to allow the piece to stand on its own without a dance company. This may ...


8

As a brassplayer, 442 on up seriously sucks. We are placed in the position of playing where the instrument doesn't resonate in the same way. Even 4 cents difference will render the slides too long even if the open instrument can be accomodated to a higher tuning frequency. Fie on brighter tuning!


7

The 12th movement of the suite "The Carnival of the Animals", Fossils, is copied partly from the "Danse Macabre", a piece previously written by Saint-Saën.


7

From my experience as a band musician, I can say that most of the importance of the conductor is during rehearsing. A well rehearsed orchestra composed of good musicians can play without a conductor in case of necessity, but without him they would probably never be able to successfully rehearse a piece of music. An orchestra is a very complex organism and ...


7

Even if I would not take the late Karajan as a reference for this, you are right, the first time of each bars of a Wiener Waltzer is almost always played short, usually the leading voice is even slighter in advance than the bass when the melody is written on 3 quarter notes. This can be approximated as removing 1/6th of the first time and adding it in ...


7

An oboe is an instrument with quite rigid pitch (possibly somewhat depending on the reed, with oboe reeds having pretty much the shortest lifetime of all reed instruments). String instruments can be painlessly retuned, and most wind instruments can be tuned a bit more or at least can be better pitch-shifted when playing using embouchure, air pressure or ...


6

Since I have been studying and living in Austria as a South African music student I have had several opportunities to play waltzes in orchestras. Especially New Years concerts consist of a couple of famous Viennese Waltzes and since the first time I had to play one of these, I have also been fascinated by this interesting rhythmical appearance. Being both ...


6

Orchestras tune higher if they can get away with it because higher pitches sound more brilliant. This has led to inflation of standard pitch over time. There are, however, practical limits to how much inflation is possible, since audiences will cry foul if the result is closer to the next semitone up. Also, some instruments, such as pianos, can be damaged ...


6

In an orchestra, let the conductor do the work for you - they should let you know your moment is coming. In a smaller group, say a string quartet, you wouldn't expect such long rests (after all, you're 25% of the ensemble) - but learn what the other parts sound like and use that to time your return. So instead of "Now I count 64 bars", it's "I'll come back ...


6

Adding to Dom's answer, the key is often in listening for cues in other people. Find out what other parts are doing around the time you come back in and before, so you can listen for that sign that you're about to come back in.


6

There are several reasons for why the instruments of an orchestra are placed the way they are. Musicians are located and positioned accordingly to be able to see the conductor easily. All similar instruments are gathered together in several groups. This allows musicians to hear each other better to accomplish coordinated activities, thus providing harmonic ...


6

I’ve played (as an amateur) in a wind band and in the wind section of an orchestra where we did practice dynamics, attacks, tempo and in general following the director instructions most rehearsals. And, obviously, practicing passages is what most rehearsals are about. Complete with style instruction such as “this is italian music, don’t hold your short ...


6

There's a funny thing that happens when you look at more and more advanced orchestras. Across the board, the level of musicianship and technical skill increases among the players in the ensemble. This has a side effect in that more advanced orchestras need less and less information1 from the conductor in order to play together, in part because section ...


5

When the concert master (first chair violinist) comes on stage, it is their job to tune the orchestra. The concert master plays a concert A for the orchestra. The sounds you then hear are those of each instrument tuning to the A given by the concert master. Since each string instrument (violin, viola, cello, and double bass) has four strings, they must tune ...


5

This seems to be shorthand for the number of instruments it's written for - unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a standard, and each publisher uses it's own notation. According to Wikipedia, the strings notation 2.1.2.1.1 means 2 first violins 1 second violin 2 violas 1 cello 1 double bass


5

The slash symbol through the stem of a note is called a "tremolo" notation, and signals that the same pitch or chord is to be repeated at a certain rate. In your example, it is a shorthand for eighth notes. The half note signifies the length of time the notes will fill (in this case two beats). The stem plus the dots shows the division. Here is a good ...


4

Don't overlook your local library. I find that university libraries (especially when they have a music program) will have a lot more sheet music than you might think (if your library uses Library of Congress indexing, look under M). Many city public libraries carry orchestral and operatic scores as well (usually at the "main" or "downtown" branch).



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