A Conversation for Orchestras

Leader of the Orchestra?

Post 1

Woodlark

>Both sections have a Principal: the Principal First Violinist is known as the Leader of the Orchestra

I have only heard the Principal First Violinist referred to as the Concertmaster. This is my first time hearing LotO. Is this a regional thing or are there really two acceptable titles for him?


Leader of the Orchestra?

Post 2

Bernadette Lynn_ Home Educator

As far as I know Concertmaster is more common on the continent than in Britain, and I'm afraid I don't know about the rest of the world, so it may be a regional thing.

Every orchestra I've played in the first violinist has been billed as the Leader.

Thankyou for reminding me of the other title: as this is meant to be a global guide, I really should have put that in first, but I'd forgotten. smiley - smiley


Leader of the Orchestra?

Post 3

zathras

As far as I know, in symphony orchestras the first chair first violinist is referred to as the concertmaster (or in some cases concertmistress). He or she even gets special recognition. The concertmaster is usually the last muscian to enter the stage before the conductor. He or she also initiates tuning (which is vitally important, especially with strings). Then the conductor enters and the music begins under his direction.
In the first violin section, the concertmaster is the most likely to perform short solos within certain pieces of music. Such is also the case with the principals of each other section (cellos, violas, basses).
In some large orchestras, the first violin section also has a principal in addition to the concertmaster. I'm not aware of any special duties by this member apart from those of the concertmaster, but they may learn more toward keeping track of music and so forth. That, and turning pages for the concertmaster.

What I'd like to see someday is an orchestra with a viola or cello concertmaster. That would be interesting.


Leader of the Orchestra?

Post 4

Gag Halfrunt

I suppose that the seccond concertmaster would be sharing a desk with the concertmaster, so If a string breaks blinding the concertmaster (It could happen, See the Young musician of the year final) he/she would then play the solos.

the "concertmaster" Is prolly more important in the orchestras that don't have a permanent conductor, He would have to introduce and things like that.


Leader of the Orchestra?

Post 5

Ellee

If memory serves, in most of the performances I've seen the first clarinet leads the tuning of the orchestra. Many of these were smaller college groups without strings, but some had the full range of instruments. In such a case where does the title concertmaster fall? Is this a common thing?


Leader of the Orchestra?

Post 6

Gag Halfrunt

I'm sure It's the First Oboe, For a few reasons. It's tone is the clearest, and It's the hardest to tune, I've often wondered (being a percussion kind of person) why the glockenspiel, Vibrophone or Bells shouldn't be used. They're pretty clear, and they are impossible to tune!


Leader of the Orchestra?

Post 7

Gnomon - time to move on

The oboe is nearly always used to tune the orchestra. The oboist is given a signal by the Leader of the Orchestra, or in his or her absence, the next in line. The oboist plays an A. In children's orchestras, the oboist often then goes on to play a B flat, for all the brass, clarinets and saxophones.

If there is a piano in the performance as solo instrument, the piano is used to tune the orchestra.

In Ireland, the first violinist is always called the Leader of the Orchestra. I've never heard the term Concertmaster.


Leader of the Orchestra?

Post 8

janexxx

Leader is a British term, Concertmaster is international but is gradually catching on here.

The oboe gives the A to tune to, but the leader initiates it by signalling to the oboe to give the A, and yes its because there are less overtones to the sound.

Yes, if there is a piano then the orchestra has to tune to that. The Leader will sound the A on the piano, and if at the Proms then gets a round of applause smiley - biggrin


Leader of the Orchestra?

Post 9

TurangaLeela

The oboe actually has a lot of harmonics /overtones in its timbre, but the characteristic pattern of frequencies is actually helpful to the ear in terms of hearing and establishing a definite and unambiguous pitch.

Can't think of a ref for this offhand, but can look it up if needed.


Leader of the Orchestra?

Post 10

Gnomon - time to move on

Yes, the oboe is used because it has more overtones to the sound, making it easier to pick out the note and hear the pitch.


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