The Violin

We have talked about various dances, the genres and instruments in music of various countries, their origins and how they are being used to create melodies in the modern time. Today the Fynch takes its readers to the world of ancient Greece. Today, we talk about Orchestra: the large instrumental ensemble consisting of typical classical instruments. Lead by a conductor, the orchestra combines the sounds of these various instruments and brings them together to create music that is captivating and enthralling.

During the era of ancient Greece, if one was to be found in a surrounding similar to an auditorium, it either meant that the audience would be viewing the Olympics or a play. The Greeks valued the art of a play and theatre immensely and no theatre performance was complete without music and that is where orchestra made its entrance.

The performance

Let’s break down the instruments first since there are quite a few:

1. Bowed String Instruments: Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass

2. Brass Instruments: Horn, Trumpet, Trombone and Tuba

3. Woodwinds Instruments: Flute, Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon

4. Percussion Instruments: Timpani, Bass Drum, Triangle, Snare Drum and Cymbals

5. Mallet Percussion Instruments

6. Piano

7. Celesta

8. Harp

The earliest when an orchestra performed was in the 1600s in the Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo. Then in the 17th century, the French composer Jean Baptiste Lully directed an orchestra for the royal court and that’s when the woodwind instruments were included alongside the bowed stringed instrument to create melodies suited for that particular play. Later in 18th century, German composer Johann Stamitz along with other composers came together to establish the basic composition of the Modern Symphony Orchestra. This included four sections that included the various categories of instruments that now associated with orchestra. The 19th century saw the orchestra have the influence from the works of Beethoven after Haydn and Mozart. During the 19th and 20th century, the number and variety of instruments in each sections was increased to create tunes that would match the mood and situation of the play or performance at that time hence the number of musicians also increased: up to a 100 and so, composers like Hector Berlioz, Richard Wagner, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov and Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and Igor Stravinsky had to manage the perfect balance of various harmonies and sounds that would not complement each other but also keep the audience on their toes.

Till date, orchestra is considered to be classy and elaborate. Many a composition that are played are from the 1900s and even prior. Though technical and intricate in its melodic details, orchestral performances create an aura of grandeur and elegance. The balance between each score has to match the tempo and smoothly progress towards the ending. A minor mistake, a skip in the beat could result in melodic fatality that could disrupt the entire performance. However, the conductor that maintains the composition with the flick of his wand as a magician would, sweeps the audience from their feet with rhythm.



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