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How Did The Symphony Orchestra Come Into Existence And Evolve ?

   The modern day symphony orchestra ,   which resides in a concert hall all year around except for touring ,  and which plays a different program  
every week from approximately September until May or June with  a music director (its chief conductor)  and a variety of guest conductors ,  bears  

little resemblance to the  early orchestras which existed in the 18th century  when Mozart and Haydn lived  .  

    Both consist of strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion , but  the orchestras of the 18th century were much smaller  ,often  consisting of  only 

about 20 to 40 musicians  , although larger ones were used on occaision  when more musicians were available .  In addition to  the strings, which 

which were fewer in number than a modern orchestra , the woodwinds usually consisted of pairs of woodwinds, flutes, oboes , and bassoons . 

The clarinet did not come into existence until relatively late in the 18th century, and Mozart was   the first major composer to use  them .

   The brass consisted of two horns and two trumpets ;   Trombones did not make their appearance in the orchestra until Beethoven's 5th

symphony in the early 19th symphony . The tuba ws not invented until well into the 19th century .

5th also .      Beethoven also introduced the piccolo and the  cavernous-sounding contrabassoon in    the 5th symphony .  

    There  were tympani , , but the only well known 18th century symphony to   use other percussion instrumentssymphony of Haydn ,  

no 100 in his catalogue of 104 !

    In the 19th century , many orchestras were ad hoc groups assembled by composers such as Mozart to perform  their music .  Others  were 

supported privately by th aristocracy for private perfornaces , such as the one  which Haydn had at his disposal as Kappelmeister(music 

director ) for the music  loving Hungarian count Eszterhazy on his remote family estate .  

    In the 19th century , some orhestras of opera companies, such as  the Vienna Court opera , now the Vienna State opera , formed  concert  

orchestras  for public concerts . The most famous of these is  the great Vienna Philharmonic, which still consists of members of the Vienna St

opera orchestra .  

   In the 19th centtury , with the advent of  great composers of the Romantic period such  as Brahms, Dvorak,  Tchaikovsky , Bruckner and 

others , the size of the orchestra grew .  Four rather than two horns became the norm,   and  the use of three or even four trumpets became

a regular  feature of the brass section .    The piccolo became more common , as well as the English horn, amd the bass clarinet was now used .  

   In addition to the usual tymapny, cymbals,  snare and bass drum and other percussion instruments were no longer rarities , and the size of 

the string section grew .  Public concerts were now the norm with a resident orchestra in a given city .

   QWith the adven of the 20th century and  great composers such as Mahler, Richard Strauss and others , normous orchestras were sometimes 

used ,  with a hundred or more musicians .  The sizze of the brass section sometimes grew to eight horns, or six, four or even more trumpets, 

dfour trombones and even two tubas , with woodwinds now quadrupled or even quintupled, and a wide variety of different percussion 

instruments, and a huge string section .  Exotic instruments such as the Heckelphone, a kind of baritone oboe even lower  in pitch than

the English horn, Wagner tubas, which had been invented by Wagner for his Ring operas  were sometimes used .  In a section of eight horns,

horns 5-8 would periodically switch to the Wagner tubas , which are a sort of cross between a tuba and a French horn .

    By the 1040s , composers such as the mystical Frenchman Olivier Messiaen (1908 - 1992 ) began to use electronic instruments in the 

weird-sounding , unearthly Ondes Martenot and others .   

    Nowadays , orchestras play a wider variety of repertoire than ever before ; the symphonies of Haydn and Mozart are still very much with us ,

and orchestras sometimes perform the music of such baroque greats as Bach and Handel, although period instrument groups  seem to

be coming closer to a monopoly on this repertoire .  

    The mumber of orchestras  in Europe, America and elsewhere also increased greatly over the years  .  There are now thouands of them, not 

only in Europe and America , but all over Asia , in Japan, South Korea ,  China ,  Australia , and every continent except for Antarctica !

   The core repertoire of  belove   masterpieces by Beethoven, Schubert,Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms,  Dvorak, Tchaikovsky ,

Berlioz, Debussy, etc  is  the meat of the repertoire , but  many interesting long neglected works have been revived , and   music by such 20th

century masters as Stravinsky , Shostakovich , Prokofiev, Bartok , Copland ,  Samuel Barber , Sibelius ,  Ravel ,  and others is  quite popular .

   Despite the usual compalints , there is absolutely no lack of new or recent works  by  the likes of John Adams, Philip Glass, William Bolcom, 

Thomas Ades,  (ad-ess), Hans Werner Henze,  Peter Maxwel Davies,  Tan Dun, ( a native of china living in New York) ,  Jennifer

Higdon , Kaaia Saariaho (both women ) , and many other contemporary composers .  (Henze died a few years ago but his music is stillwidely 

played .)   

    In the course of any given season , a major orchestra  will play an enormous varitey of repertoire .  The symphony orchesta has been 

evolving for nearly 300 years , and there is no sign that is  is in any way  stagnant or  irrelevant . Who knows what the future will bring for it ?

Posted: Jan 29 2015, 10:18 PM by the horn | with no comments
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