I'm learning an orchestra score and I'm really new to that. I'm figuring out what instruments are included in this score, and I get most of them (correct me if there is any mistake). However, I'm pretty confused about the Br. and K-B here.
Also, what is the difference between the two Viol.?

orchestral score with abbreviations

  • What is the composition title and author? In what language or country the score was published? Could it be they are e.g. German abbreviations? Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 3:18
  • @user1079505 This is the first symphony of Brahms. Unfortunately, I'm not sure about the language which confused me either :( Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 3:21
  • @user1079505 Based on my observation, I guess it's in English or German Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 3:22

1 Answer 1


Br. is short for Bratsche, which is german for Viola.

K-B. is short for Kontrabass, which is german for Contrabass a.k.a. Double bass.

The two Viol. parts are both Violins. An orchestra has two sections for the violins (firsts and seconds), these make up the largest portion of the orchestra. Sometimes they will play the same notes but it is very common that they play independently.
(Sometimes these sections will themselves divide (divisi) to play different lines of music)

P.S. Since you are new to orchestral scores and german — it's worth pointing out that the clarinets in "B", are really clarinets in B-flat. B-flat is B in german, and B is H.

  • 2
    @MusicalChicken — You're right that "Hr." is short for Horn (in german and english). Before horns had valves they used a collection of different crooks (tubes of specific lengths). The particular crook that was attached would set the tuning of the instrument to a certain key. The "Es" is german for E-flat. So it's a horn with the E-flat crook attached. Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 12:23
  • 2
    @MusicalChicken: Another important thing to remember is that because of the E-flat transposition, the horn staves in that section are actually in unison (not in minor thirds as it might appear.) If you're not familiar with the concept of "transposing instruments", Wikipedia has a reasonable summary. Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 13:57
  • 4
    @CarlWitthoft Hornists, for historical reasons, don't expect to see key signatures, ever. It's just one of those things that drive composers and conductors crazy. I guarantee that the horns are in unison/octaves in mm. 179-180 here; if nothing else, if the C's written in the E-flat horn part were meant to be concert pitch, they would make absolutely no sense against the 2nd violins and violas playing an A-flat minor arpeggio with a C-flat in the middle of it.
    – Paul Z
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 18:12
  • 1
    @phoog HaHa. I missed that!
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 21:45
  • 1
    Trivia: The word "Bratsche" comes from the Italian "viola da braccio". Commented Dec 3, 2021 at 22:28

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