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For other uses, see Orchestra (disambiguation).

The Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra

An orchestra is an instrumental ensemble, usually fairly large with string, brass, woodwind
sections, and almost always a percussion section as well. The term orchestra derives from the
Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek
chorus. The orchestra grew by accretion throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but
changed very little in composition during the course of the twentieth century.

A smaller-sized orchestra for this time period (of about fifty players or fewer) is called a
chamber orchestra. A full-size orchestra (about 100 players) may sometimes be called a
"symphony orchestra" or "philharmonic orchestra"; these modifiers do not necessarily
indicate any strict difference in either the instrumental constitution or role of the orchestra, but
can be useful to distinguish different ensembles based in the same city (for instance, the London
Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra). A symphony orchestra will
usually have over eighty musicians on its roster, in some cases over a hundred, but the actual
number of musicians employed in a particular performance may vary according to the work
being played and the size of the venue. A leading chamber orchestra might employ as many as
fifty musicians; some are much smaller than that.


• 1 Instrumentation
o 1.1 Beethoven's influence
o 1.2 Expanded instrumentation
 1.2.1 Classical Orchestra
 1.2.2 Early Romantic Orchestra
 1.2.3 Late Romantic Orchestra
 1.2.4 Modern Orchestra
• 2 Organization
• 3 History of the orchestra
o 3.1 Early history
o 3.2 Mannheim School
 3.2.1 Performance standards
 3.2.2 Instrumental craftsmanship
• 4 Wagner's influence
o 4.1 20th century orchestra
o 4.2 Counter-revolution
o 4.3 Recent trends
• 5 Conductorless orchestras
• 6 Multiple conductors
• 7 Other meanings of orchestra
• 8 See also
• 9 Notes
• 10 References

• 11 External links

[edit] Instrumentation

Apo Hsu and the NTNU Symphony Orchestra on stage in the National Concert Hall in Taipei,

The typical symphony orchestra consists of four proportionate groups of similar musical
instruments called the woodwinds, brass, percussion, and strings. The orchestra, depending on
the size, contains almost all of the standard instruments in each group. In the history of the
orchestra, its instrumentation has been expanded over time, often agreed to have been
standardized by the classical period and Beethoven's influence on the classical model.

[edit] Beethoven's influence

The so-called "standard complement" of double winds and brass in the orchestra from the first
half of the 19th century is generally attributed to the forces called for by Ludwig van Beethoven.
The exceptions to this are his Symphony No. 4, Violin Concerto, and Piano Concerto No. 4,
which each specify a single flute. The composer's instrumentation almost always included paired
flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns and trumpets. Beethoven carefully calculated the
expansion of this particular timbral "palette" in Symphonies 3, 5, 6, and 9 for an innovative
effect. The third horn in the "Eroica" Symphony arrives to provide not only some harmonic
flexibility, but also the effect of "choral" brass in the Trio. Piccolo, contrabassoon, and
trombones add to the triumphal finale of his Symphony No. 5. A piccolo and a pair of trombones
help deliver storm and sunshine in the Sixth. The Ninth asks for a second pair of horns, for
reasons similar to the "Eroica" (four horns has since become standard); Beethoven's use of
piccolo, contrabassoon, trombones, and unpitched percussion – plus chorus and vocal soloists –
in his finale, are his earliest suggestion that the timbral boundaries of "symphony" might be
expanded for good. But for several decades after his departure, symphonic instrumentation was
faithful to Beethoven's well-established model, with few exceptions.

[edit] Expanded instrumentation

Tudor Tulok - White Light

Composition for String Orchestra consisting of 2 Violin sections, 1 Viola section, 1

Cello section and 1 Contrabass section.
Problems listening to this file? See media help.

Apart from the core orchestral complement, various other instruments are called for occasionally.
These include the classical guitar, heckelphone, flugelhorn, cornet, harpsichord, and organ.
Saxophones, for example, appear in a limited range of 19th and 20th century scores. While
appearing only as featured solo instruments in some works, for example Maurice Ravel's
orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and Sergei Rachmaninoff's
Symphonic Dances, the saxophone is included in other works, such as Ravel's Boléro,
Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet Suites 1 and 2, Vaughan Williams Symphony No.6 and Symphony
No.9 and William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast, and many other works as a member of the
orchestral ensemble. The euphonium is featured in a few late Romantic and 20th century works,
usually playing parts marked "tenor tuba", including Gustav Holst's The Planets, and Richard
Strauss's Ein Heldenleben. The Wagner tuba, a modified member of the horn family, appears in
Richard Wagner's cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen and several other works by Richard Strauss,
Béla Bartók, and others; it has a prominent role in Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 in E Major.
Cornets appear in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake, Claude Debussy's La Mer, and
several orchestral works by Hector Berlioz. Unless these instruments are played by members
doubling on another instrument (for example, a trombone player changing to euphonium for a
certain passage), orchestras will use freelance musicians to augment their regular rosters.

The 20th century orchestra was far more flexible than its predecessors. In composers such as
Beethoven's and Felix Mendelssohn's time, the orchestra was composed of a fairly standard core
of instruments which was very rarely modified. As time progressed, and as the Romantic saw
changes in accepted modification with composers such as Berlioz, followed by Johannes Brahms
and eventually Gustav Mahler, the 20th century saw that orchestration could practically be hand-
picked by the composer.

With this history in mind, the orchestra can be seen to have a general evolution as outlined
below. The first is a classical orchestra (i.e. Beethoven/late Haydn), the second an early/mid-
romantic (i.e. Brahms/Dvořák/Schumann), late romantic/early 20th century (i.e.
Wagner/Mahler/Richard Strauss), modern (i.e. Stravinsky to the present day, although as
explained above this was far more flexible than the list implies and often forces would surpass
the romantic/transition orchestra).

[edit] Classical [edit] Early Romantic [edit] Late Romantic [edit] Modern
Orchestra Orchestra Orchestra Orchestra

Woodwinds Woodwinds Woodwinds Woodwinds

2 Flutes (Piccolo) Piccolo Piccolo
2 Oboes 2 Flutes 3 Flutes fsdfds 2 Flutes
2 Clarinets (in 2 Oboes 3 Oboes 2 Oboes
C, B-flat, or (English Horn) English Horn English Horn
A) 2 Clarinets in B- Clarinet in E- 2 Clarinets in B-
2 Bassoons flat, A flat flat, A
Brass (Bass Clarinet in 3 Clarinetsin B- Bass Clarinet
2 or 4 Horns B-flat, A) flat, A (and/or Clarinet
(in any key) 2 Bassoons Bass Clarinet in E-flat)
2 Trumpets (Contrabassoon) 3 Bassoons 2 Bassoons
(in any key) Brass Contrabassoon Contrabassoon
Percussion 4 Horns in F Brass Brass
Timpani 2 Trumpets in F 8 Horns in F 4 Horns in F
Strings (2 Cornets in B- 4 Trumpets in F, 3 Trumpets in C
6 Violins I flat) C, B-flat 3 Trombones (2
6 Violins II 3 Trombones (2 4 Trombones (3 Tenor, 1 Bass)
4 Violas Tenor, 1 Bass) Tenor, 1 Bass) Tuba
3 (Tuba) (Euphonium) Percussion
Violoncellos Percussion (Wagner Tubas Timpani
2 Double Timpani (2 Tenor, 2 Snare Drum
basses Snare Drum Bass)) Tenor Drum
Bass Drum Tuba Bass Drum
Cymbals Percussion Cymbals
Triangle Timpani Tam-tam
Tambourine Snare drum Triangle
Glockenspiel Bass drum Wood block
Strings Cymbals Tambourine
Harp Tam-tam Glockenspiel
14 Violins I Triangle Xylophone
12 Violins II Tambourine Vibraphone
10 Violas Glockenspiel Chimes
8 Violoncellos Xylophone Castanets[citation
6 Double basses Chimes
Keyboards Congas[citation needed]
Celesta Bongos[citation needed]
Organ Güiro[citation needed]
Strings Whip[citation needed]
2 Harps Keyboards
16 Violins I Celesta
16 Violins II Piano
12 Violas Strings
12 Violoncellos Harp
seff 16 Violins I
12 Double 14 Violins II
basses 12 Violas
10 Violoncellos
8 Double basses

[edit] Organization

Lorin Maazel conducting

Among the instrument groups and within each group of instruments, there is a generally accepted
hierarchy. Every instrumental group (or section) has a principal who is generally responsible for
leading the group and playing orchestral solos. The violins are divided into two groups, first
violin and second violin, each with its principal. The principal first violin is called the
concertmaster (or "leader" in the UK) and is considered the leader of not only the string section,
but of the entire orchestra, subordinate only to the conductor.

The principal trombone is considered the leader of the low brass section, while the principal
trumpet is generally considered the leader of the entire brass section. Similarly, the principal
oboe is considered the leader of the woodwind section, and is the player to whom all others tune.
The horn, while technically a brass instrument, often acts in the role of both woodwind and
brass. Most sections also have an assistant principal (or co-principal or associate principal), or in
the case of the first violins, an assistant concertmaster, who often plays a tutti part in addition to
replacing the principal in his or her absence.

A section string player plays unison with the rest of the section, except in the case of divided
(divisi) parts, where upper and lower parts in the music are often assigned to "outside" (nearer
the audience) and "inside" seated players. Where a solo part is called for in a string section, for
example in the violins, the section leader invariably plays that part. Tutti wind and brass players
generally play a unique but non-solo part. Section percussionists play parts assigned to them by
the principal percussionist.

In modern times, the musicians are usually directed by a conductor, although early orchestras did
not have one, using instead the concertmaster or the harpsichordist playing the continuo for this
role. Some modern orchestras also do without conductors, particularly smaller orchestras and
those specializing in historically accurate performances of baroque music and earlier.

The most frequently performed repertoire for a symphony orchestra is Western classical music or
opera. However, orchestras are sometimes used in popular music, used extensively in film music,
and sometimes used in video game music.

The Budapest Symphony Orchestra.

[edit] History of the orchestra

[edit] Early history

The history of the modern orchestra that we are familiar with today goes all the way back to
Ancient Egypt. The first orchestras were made up of small groups of musicians that gathered for
festivals, holidays or funerals. During the time of the Roman Empire, the government suppressed
the musicians and informal ensembles were banned, but they reappeared after the collapse of the
Empire. It was not until the 11th century that families of instruments started to appear with
differences in tones and octaves. True modern orchestras started in the late 16th century when
composers started writing music for instrumental groups. In the 15th and 16th centuries in Italy
the households of nobles had musicians to provide music for dancing and the court, however
with the emergence of the theatre, particularly opera, in the early 17th century, music was
increasingly written for groups of players in combination, which is the origin of orchestral
playing. Opera originated in Italy, and Germany eagerly followed. Dresden, Munich and
Hamburg successively built opera houses. At the end of the 17th century opera flourished in
England under Henry Purcell, and in France under Lully, who with the collaboration of Molière
also greatly raised the status of the entertainments known as ballets, interspersed with
instrumental and vocal music.
In the 17th century and early 18th century, instrumental groups were taken from all of the
available talent. A composer such as Johann Sebastian Bach had control over almost all of the
musical resources of a town, whereas Handel would hire the best musicians available. This
placed a premium on being able to rewrite music for whichever singers or musicians were best
suited for a performance—Handel produced different versions of the Messiah oratorio almost
every year.

As nobility began to build retreats away from towns, they began to hire musicians to form
permanent ensembles. Composers such as the young Joseph Haydn would then have a fixed
body of instrumentalists to work with. At the same time, travelling virtuoso performers would
write concerti that showed off their skills, and they would travel from town to town, arranging
concerts along the way. The aristocratic orchestras worked together over long periods, making it
possible for ensemble playing to improve with practice.

[edit] Mannheim School

This change, from civic music making where the composer had some degree of time or control,
to smaller court music making and one-off performance, placed a premium on music that was
easy to learn, often with little or no rehearsal. The results were changes in musical style and
emphasis on new techniques. Mannheim had one of the most famous orchestras of that time,
where notated dynamics and phrasing, previously quite rare, became standard (see Mannheim
school). It also attended a change in musical style from the complex counterpoint of the baroque
period, to an emphasis on clear melody, homophonic textures, short phrases, and frequent
cadences: a style that would later be defined as classical.

Throughout the late 18th century composers would continue to have to assemble musicians for a
performance, often called an "Academy", which would, naturally, feature their own
compositions. In 1781, however, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra was organized from the
merchants concert society, and it began a trend towards the formation of civic orchestras that
would accelerate into the 19th century. In 1815, Boston's Handel and Haydn Society was
founded, in 1842 the New York Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic were formed, and in
1858, the Hallé Orchestra was formed in Manchester. There had long been standing bodies of
musicians around operas, but not for concert music: this situation changed in the early 19th
century as part of the increasing emphasis in the composition of symphonies and other purely
instrumental forms. This was encouraged by composer critics such as E. T. A. Hoffmann who
declared that instrumental music was the "purest form" of music. The creation of standing
orchestras also resulted in a professional framework where musicians could rehearse and perform
the same works repeatedly, leading to the concept of a repertoire in instrumental music.

[edit] Performance standards

In the 1830s, conductor François Antoine Habeneck, began rehearsing a selected group of
musicians in order to perform the symphonies of Beethoven, which had not been heard of in their
entirety in Paris. He developed techniques of rehearsing the strings separately, notating specifics
of performance, and other techniques of cuing entrances that were spread across Europe. His
rival and friend Hector Berlioz would adopt many of these innovations in his touring of Europe.
[edit] Instrumental craftsmanship

The invention of the piston and rotary valve by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel and Friedrich
Blühmel, both Silesians, in 1815, was the first in a series of innovations, including the
development of modern keywork for the flute by Theobald Boehm and the innovations of
Adolphe Sax in the woodwinds. These advances would lead Hector Berlioz to write a landmark
book on instrumentation, which was the first systematic treatise on the use of instrumental sound
as an expressive element of music.[2]

The effect of the invention of valves for the brass was felt almost immediately: instrument-
makers throughout Europe strove together to foster the use of these newly refined instruments
and continuing their perfection; and the orchestra was before long enriched by a new family of
valved instruments, variously known as tubas, or euphoniums and bombardons, having a
chromatic scale and a full sonorous tone of great beauty and immense volume, forming a
magnificent bass. This also made possible a more uniform playing of notes or intonation, which
would lead to a more and more "smooth" orchestral sound that would peak in the 1950s with
Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra and the conducting of Herbert von Karajan
with the Berlin Philharmonic.

During this transition period, which gradually eased the performance of more demanding
"natural" brass writing, many composers (notably Wagner and Berlioz) still notated brass parts
for the older "natural" instruments. This practice made it possible for players still using natural
horns, for instance, to perform from the same parts as those now playing valved instruments.
However, over time, use of the valved instruments became standard, indeed universal, until the
revival of older instruments in the contemporary movement towards authentic performance
(sometimes known as "historically informed performance").

At the time of the invention of the valved brass, the pit orchestra of most operetta composers
seems to have been modest. An example is Sullivan's use of two flutes, one oboe, two clarinets,
one bassoon, two horns, two cornets (a piston), two trombones, drums and strings.

During this time of invention, winds and brass were expanded, and had an increasingly easy time
playing in tune with each other: particularly the ability for composers to score for large masses of
wind and brass that previously had been impractical. Works such as the Requiem of Hector
Berlioz would have been impossible to perform just a few decades earlier, with its demanding
writing for twenty woodwinds, as well as four gigantic brass ensembles each including around
four trumpets, four trombones, and two tubas.

[edit] Wagner's influence

The next major expansion of symphonic practice came from Richard Wagner's Bayreuth
orchestra, founded to accompany his musical dramas. Wagner's works for the stage were scored
with unprecedented scope and complexity: indeed, his score to Das Rheingold calls for six harps.
Thus, Wagner envisioned an ever-more-demanding role for the conductor of the theater
orchestra, as he elaborated in his influential work "On Conducting".[3] This brought about a
revolution in orchestral composition, and set the style for orchestral performance for the next
eighty years. Wagner's theories re-examined the importance of tempo, dynamics, bowing of
string instruments and the role of principals in the orchestra. Conductors who studied his
methods would go on to be influential themselves.

[edit] 20th century orchestra

As the early 20th century dawned, symphony orchestras were larger, better funded, and better
trained than ever before; consequently, composers could compose larger and more ambitious
works. With the recording era beginning, the standard of performance reached a pinnacle. In
recordings, small errors in a performance could be "fixed", but many older conductors and
composers could remember a time when simply "getting through" the music as best as possible
was the standard. Combined with the wider audience made possible by recording, this led to a
renewed focus on particular conductors and on a high standard of orchestral execution.[4] As
sound was added to silent film, the virtuoso orchestra became a key component of the
establishment of motion pictures as mass-market entertainment.

[edit] Counter-revolution

In the 1920s and 1930s, economic as well as artistic considerations led to the formation of
smaller concert societies, particularly those dedicated to the performance of music of the avant-
garde, including Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg. This tendency to start festival
orchestras or dedicated groups would also be pursued in the creation of summer musical
festivals, and orchestras for the performance of smaller works. Among the most influential of
these was the Academy of St Martin in the Fields under the baton of Sir Neville Marriner.

With the advent of the early music movement, orchestras where players worked on execution of
works in styles derived from the study of older treatises on playing became common. These
include the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the London Classical Players under the
direction of Sir Roger Norrington and the Academy of Ancient Music under Christopher
Hogwood, among others.

[edit] Recent trends

The late 20th century saw a crisis of funding and support for orchestras. The size and cost of a
symphony orchestra, compared to the size of the base of supporters, became an issue that struck
at the core of the institution. The drastic falling-off of revenues from recording, tied to no small
extent to changes in the recording industry itself, began a period of change that has yet to reach
its conclusion. Critics such as Norman Lebrecht were vocal in their diagnosis of the problem as
the "jet set conductor" and the problems of orchestral repertory and management, while other
music administrators such as Michael Tilson Thomas and Esa-Pekka Salonen argued that new
music, new means of presenting it, and a renewed relationship with the community could
revitalize the symphony orchestra.

[edit] Conductorless orchestras

Main article: Conductorless orchestra

The post-revolutionary symphony orchestra Persimfans was formed in the Soviet Union in 1922.
The unusual aspect of the orchestra was that, believing that in the ideal Marxist state all people
are equal, its members felt that there was no need to be led by the dictatorial baton of a
conductor; instead they were led by a committee. Although it was a partial success, the principal
difficulty with the concept was in changing tempo. The orchestra survived for ten years before
Stalin's cultural politics effectively forced it into disbandment by draining away its funding.[5]

Some ensembles, such as the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, based in New York City, have had
more success, although decisions are likely to be deferred to some sense of leadership within the
ensemble (for example, the principal wind and string players).

Others have returned to the tradition of a principal player, usually a violinist, being the artistic
director and running rehearsals (such as the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the New Century
Chamber Orchestra).

[edit] Multiple conductors

The techniques of polystylism and polytempo music have recently led a few composers to write
music where multiple orchestras perform simultaneously. These trends have brought about the
phenomenon of polyconductor music, wherein separate sub-conductors conduct each group of
musicians. Usually, one principal conductor conducts the sub-conductors, thereby shaping the
overall performance. Some pieces are enormously complex in this regard, such as Evgeni
Kostitsyn's Third Symphony, which calls for nine conductors.

Charles Ives often used two conductors, one for example to simulate a marching band coming
through his piece. Realizations for Symphonic Band includes one example from Ives.

One of the famous example in the late century orchestral music is Karlheinz Stockhausen's
Gruppen, for three orchestras placed around the public. This way, the sound masses could be
spacialized, as in an eletroacoustic work. Gruppen was premiered in Cologne, in 1958,
conducted by Stockhausen, Bruno Maderna and Pierre Boulez. Recently, it was performed by
Simon Rattle, John Carewe and Daniel Harding.

[edit] Other meanings of orchestra

In Ancient Greece, the orchestra was the space between the auditorium and the proscenium (or
stage), in which were stationed the chorus and the instrumentalists. The word orchestra literally
means "a dancing place".

In some theaters, the orchestra is the area of seats directly in front of the stage (called primafila
or platea); the term more properly applies to the place in a theatre, or concert hall reserved for
the musicians.
[edit] See also
• List of symphony orchestra concert halls
• List of symphony orchestras
o List of symphony orchestras in Europe
o List of symphony orchestras in the United States
• National Youth Orchestras
o List of youth orchestras in the United States
• Orchestral enhancement
• Orchestration
• Radio orchestra
• Shorthand for orchestra instrumentation
• Conductorless orchestra
• String orchestra
• Typical instrument layout