The symphony orchestra may be perceived as the proverbial dinosaur ambling down the road towards oblivion, yet there are those for whom symphonic music is a passion. I am one of those. This blog presents items I find interesting, unique and educational for those who also are passionate about listening to and analyzing music and its orchestration. I try to post every few weeks, but at least monthly.
In many orchestral works, there are some cases in which the specific instrument or section of the orchestra is as integral to the composition as the heart is to the human body. It would be difficult to imagine the cello section, playing melody in the Pas de Deux in the Tchaikovsky Nutcracker (the descending G major scale) accompanied by pizzicato strings and harp arpeggios, replaced by the bassoons. It would be just as difficult to imagine the solo flute at the end of Mendelssohn’s Scherzo in the music to Midsummer Night’s Dream replaced by a solo trumpet.
But there are the less systemic parts of an orchestral piece that few would notice if the score were changed. Inner string parts or perhaps brass section voicings are much more subtle. Nevertheless, the composer – or in some cases, the orchestrator – still makes a decision on which instruments play what notes. This blog selects a topic for each post and examines some of the choices made. This is not an academic exercise. It’s simply one view of the infinite variety of choices made by composers active mainly in the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
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