Concertmaster

Last updated
Students, TUSAB perform musical poetry 150514-A-DZ999-619.jpg

The concertmaster (from the German Konzertmeister) is the leader of the first violin section in an orchestra (or clarinet, oboe, flute in a concert band) and the instrument-playing leader of the orchestra. After the conductor, the concertmaster is the second-most significant leader in an orchestra, symphonic band or other musical ensemble. Another common term in the U.S. is "first chair." [1] In the U.K., the term commonly used is "leader." [2]

Contents

Orchestra

In an orchestra, the concertmaster is the leader of the first violin section. There is another violin section, the second violins, led by the principal second violin. Any violin solo in an orchestral work is played by the concertmaster (except in the case of a concerto, in which case a guest soloist usually plays). [3] It is usually required that the concertmaster be the most skilled musician in the section, experienced at learning music quickly, counting rests accurately and leading the rest of the string section by their playing and bow gestures.

The concertmaster sits to the conductor's left, closest to the audience, in what is called the "first chair," "first [music] stand" or outside of the US "first desk." The concertmaster makes decisions regarding bowing and other technical details of violin playing for the violins, and sometimes all of the string players. The concertmaster leads the orchestra in tuning before concerts and rehearsals, and other technical aspects of orchestra management. [4] Leading the orchestral tuning is not a mere formality; if the concertmaster believes that a section is not adequately tuned, they will signal to the oboe player to play another "A." Several larger orchestras have one or more assistant concertmasters, who lead the orchestra in the concertmaster's absence.

The concertmaster, along with the conductor and section principals, will normally participate in the auditions of important musicians (e.g., principal players) in the orchestra.

Other large ensembles

In a standard concert band, the concertmaster is the principal clarinet, oboe, or flute and leads the ensemble's tuning. The first-chair clarinet concertmaster will, in common practice, play all solos for their instrument. Often the lead flautist will receive similar responsibilities to the clarinet concertmaster, depending on several factors such as age, skill and time spent in the ensemble. The concertmaster will, in both orchestral and wind band settings, also coordinate with other principals and section leaders, in most cases being their senior in terms of group pecking order.

In brass bands, the role of concertmaster is often filled by the principal solo cornet or trumpet.

Duties

The duties and tasks of the concertmaster are many. Primarily, the concertmaster acts as the conduit between conductor and orchestra and is accountable to both parties. [5]

One of the principal tasks of the concertmaster is to provide bowings for the 1st violins prior to rehearsal. [6] This entails a great knowledge of historical playing styles in addition to complete idiomatic understanding of the mechanics of string playing. Section leaders among the other strings will base their bowings on those of the concertmaster and these section leaders (called principals) may confer during rehearsal in order to ensure unity and cohesion of execution between the string sections. Ensemble cohesion emanates directly from the contact and connection between these vital front desk positions. The concertmaster assumes responsibility for the tone and execution of the entire section of 1st violins, in addition to performing any solo passages that occur in a given piece. [7]

Another primary duty of the concertmaster is to translate instructions from the conductor into specific technical language for the strings. [5] Some conductors prefer to speak more broadly and defer to the concertmaster on such matters out of respect for the musicians who are expert specialists while the conductor is, often (unless they are a string player), a generalist.

Full-time professional orchestras work with several conductors through the course of a regular season. Accordingly, while the conductor may change week to week or month to month, the concertmaster lends a sense of stable and constant leadership day to day. While the impetus for the orchestra to play is given by the conductor's gestures, oftentimes for reasons of precision the orchestra will actually follow the bow of the concertmaster as their cue to play. [8] This is because the conductor's gestures exist in the abstract whereas the concertmaster produces sound along with their fellow musicians. Further, the idiosyncratic technique of some conductors can make it difficult for the orchestra to enter together. Yet another duty of the concertmaster is to maintain a sense of decorum during rehearsals by setting a personal example and by monitoring the room to ensure all members of the orchestra are being cooperative. [9] It is more appropriate for the concertmaster to ask for quiet if there is a bit of chatter than it is for a guest conductor unfamiliar with the orchestra.

In performances given in America and/or featuring American or British orchestras, the concertmaster will usually walk onstage individually after the rest of the orchestra is seated, and bow and receive applause before the conductor appears. [10] In continental European orchestras, this practice is uncommon. There, the concertmaster usually walks onstage with the rest of the orchestra. As the representative of the orchestra, the concertmaster will usually shake hands with the conductor at the beginning or end of a concert as a sign of mutual respect and appreciation.

See also

Related Research Articles

Double bass Acoustic stringed instrument of the violin family

The double bass, also known simply as the bass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra. Similar in structure to the cello, it has four, although occasionally five, strings.

Musical ensemble Group of people who perform instrumental and/or vocal music, with the ensemble typically known by a distinct name

A musical ensemble, also known as a music group or musical group, is a group of people who perform instrumental or vocal music, with the ensemble typically known by a distinct name. Some music ensembles consist solely of instruments, such as the jazz quartet or the orchestra. Other music ensembles consist solely of singers, such as choirs and doo wop groups. In both popular music and classical music, there are ensembles in which both instrumentalists and singers perform, such as the rock band or the Baroque chamber group for basso continuo and one or more singers. In classical music, trios or quartets either blend the sounds of musical instrument families or group together instruments from the same instrument family, such as string ensembles or wind ensembles. Some ensembles blend the sounds of a variety of instrument families, such as the orchestra, which uses a string section, brass instruments, woodwinds and percussion instruments, or the concert band, which uses brass, woodwinds and percussion.

Orchestra Large instrumental ensemble

An orchestra is a large instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which combines instruments from different families, including

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Orchestra based in London

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) is a British orchestra based in London.

Conducting Directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures

Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance, such as an orchestral or choral concert. It has been defined as "the art of directing the simultaneous performance of several players or singers by the use of gesture." The primary duties of the conductor are to interpret the score in a way which reflects the specific indications in that score, set the tempo, ensure correct entries by ensemble members, and "shape" the phrasing where appropriate. Conductors communicate with their musicians primarily through hand gestures, usually with the aid of a baton, and may use other gestures or signals such as eye contact. A conductor usually supplements their direction with verbal instructions to their musicians in rehearsal.

Concert band Performing ensemble

A concert band, variously also called a wind ensemble, symphonic band, wind symphony, wind orchestra, wind band, symphonic winds, symphony band, or symphonic wind ensemble, is a performing ensemble consisting of members of the woodwind, brass, and percussion families of instruments, and occasionally including the double bass or bass guitar. On rare occasions, additional non-traditional instruments may be added to such ensembles such as piano, harp, synthesizer, or electric guitar.

Pit orchestra

A pit orchestra is a type of orchestra that accompanies performers in musicals, operas, ballets, and other shows involving music. The terms was also used for orchestras accompanying silent movies when more than a piano was used. In performances of operas and ballets, the pit orchestra is typically similar in size to a symphony orchestra, though it may contain smaller string and brass sections, depending upon the piece. Such orchestras may vary in size from approximately 30 musicians to as many as 90–100 musicians. However, because of financial, space, and volume concerns, the musical theatre pit orchestra in the 2000s is considerably smaller.

Alice Anne LeBaron is a United States composer and harpist.

Rehearsal

A rehearsal is an activity in the performing arts that occurs as preparation for a performance in music, theatre, dance and related arts, such as opera, musical theatre and film production. It is undertaken as a form of practising, to ensure that all details of the subsequent performance are adequately prepared and coordinated. The term rehearsal typically refers to ensemble activities undertaken by a group of people. For example, when a musician is preparing a piano concerto in their music studio, this is called practising, but when they practice it with an orchestra, this is called a rehearsal. The music rehearsal takes place in a music rehearsal space.

San Antonio Symphony

The San Antonio Symphony is a full-time professional symphony orchestra based in San Antonio, Texas. Its season runs from late September to early June. Sebastian Lang-Lessing, whose tenure ended in 2020, is Music Director Emeritus.

Jukka Santeri Tiensuu is a Finnish contemporary classical composer, harpsichordist, pianist and conductor.

String section Section of a larger symphony orchestra composed of string musicians

The string section is composed of bowed instruments belonging to the violin family. It normally consists of first and second violins, violas, cellos, and double basses. It is the most numerous group in the typical Classical orchestra. In discussions of the instrumentation of a musical work, the phrase "the strings" or "and strings" is used to indicate a string section as just defined. An orchestra consisting solely of a string section is called a string orchestra. Smaller string sections are sometimes used in jazz, pop and rock music and in the pit orchestras of musical theatre.

Andrés Archila Guatemalan musician

Andrés Archila was a Guatemalan international violinist and orchestra conductor. He was the principal founder and conductor of the Guatemalan National Symphony Orchestra from 1944 to 1964, founder of the Quarteto Guatemala, Associate Concertmaster of Washington, D.C.'s National Symphony Orchestra from 1959 to 1984, and soloist and conductor with major orchestras of the Americas during his lifetime. Maestro Archila was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, on December 24, 1913, and he died in Washington, D.C., on March 2, 2002, and is interred in his country Guatemala.

Don Kay (composer)

Donald Henry Kay AM is an Australian classical composer.

William Jay Sydeman was an American composer. Born in New York, he studied at the Mannes School of Music, where he later taught composition (1960–1970). Winning early acclaim for his avant-garde music, he felt trapped by the prevailing orthodoxies and moved to California in 1970, beginning a period of wandering during which he also studied Buddhism and Anthroposophy. He joined ASCAP in 1975. In 1981 he settled in Sacramento and resumed composition at his former prolific rate, having newly embraced a neotonal musical language. He later moved to Mendocino.

Oscar Ravina, born in Warsaw, Poland, was a violinist, violin teacher and concertmaster based in New York, who has had a prolific career as a performer as well as being a current professor emeritus at Montclair State University, where a talent grant in his name is regularly given to outstanding full-time freshmen studying string instruments.

The section principal in an orchestra, as well as any large musical ensemble, is the lead player for each respective section of instruments. For example, there are multiple sections in an orchestra. The strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion sections all have subsections. The first violins, second violins, violas, cellos, double basses, flutes, clarinets, oboes, bassoons, trumpets, trombones, French horns, tubas, and percussion are all subsections, each led by a principal player. The principal for each section is normally the most skilled and valuable player, selected through an audition process.

Ensemble librarianship is an area of music librarianship which specializes in serving the needs of musical ensembles, including symphony and chamber orchestras, opera houses, ballet companies, wind ensembles and educational institutions. Ensemble librarians acquire printed music and prepare it for performance.

The woodwind section, which consists of woodwind instruments, is one of the main sections of an orchestra or concert band. Woodwind sections contain instruments given Hornbostel-Sachs classifications of 421 and 422, but exclude 423

<i>Orchestral Works by Tomas Svoboda</i> 2003 album by the Oregon Symphony

Orchestral Works by Tomas Svoboda is a classical music album by the Oregon Symphony under the artistic direction of James DePreist, released by the record label Albany in 2003. The album was recorded at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon during three performances in January and June 2000. It contains three works by Tomáš Svoboda, a Czech-American composer who taught at Portland State University for more than 25 years: Overture of the Season, Op. 89; Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra, Op. 148; and Symphony No. 1, Op. 20. The album's executive producers were Peter Kermani, Susan Bush, and Mark B. Rulison; Blanton Alspaugh served as the recording producer.

References

  1. Joyce, Lis. "What does it take to become a first chair?". Vox Magazine. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  2. "The Role of the Concertmaster in Classical Music". dummies. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  3. "The role of the Concertmaster". South Florida Musicians.
  4. "About the Classical Orchestra". Community Arts Music Association. Archived from the original on 6 February 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  5. 1 2 "Concertmaster | Berklee College of Music". www.berklee.edu. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  6. "» What is a concertmaster? What are his/her responsibilities?". www.rockfordsymphony.com. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  7. Etude: The Music Magazine. Presser. 1910.
  8. "Why doesn't the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra have a concertmaster? And what's a concertmaster anyway?". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  9. Team, StringOvation. "First Violin: Characteristics Of A Great Concertmaster". www.connollymusic.com. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  10. "Here's Why the Concertmaster Is Always a Violinist | How To Classical". WQXR. Retrieved 6 January 2020.