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Thread: Dream Orchestra

  1. #1
    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    Default Dream Orchestra

    Which instruments would you have in your ideal orchestra?
    I know what I'd have;

    Equal measures of violins, cellos and double basses.
    Six horns, three trombones and two tubas.
    Two harps, a piano, a marimba, a celesta, chromatic timps, two bass drums - loads of cymbals.
    One flute and a theremin.
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    2 harps? thats a bit superflous!

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    I apologise but edward elgar suffers from a rare disease called 'Giganticus Moronicus' and sometimes is confused as to what comprises an amazing orchestra.

    Equal Strings, all 20/section
    3 Flutes
    3 Oboes
    1 Oboe D'amore
    2 Bassoons
    1 Contra Bassoon
    2 Clarinets
    Bassett Horn
    6 Horns
    1 Tuba
    1 Wagner Horn
    1 of Alto, Tenor and Bass Trombones
    2 Trumpets
    1 Organ
    Diatonic Timps (2players) (chromatic?....you stupid boy)
    The Usual Percussion section +marimba and Tubular Bells
    1 Gong
    1 Bass Drum

    and

    A ressurected Mahler to conduct!

    I Thank You
    Mozart is sweet sunshine - Dvorak

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    Oh, and a Harp
    Mozart is sweet sunshine - Dvorak

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    That's just an ordinary orchestra - try to be a little more creative!

    The reason I havn't included much woodwind is because you can get most emotions out of merely strings and brass - woodwind just clutter up a score. If I added a bassoon in my orchestra would you be happy?!
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    The idea of "equal strings" is a little bit mis-informed.

    I think the word you are looking for is "balanced" strings, where the sections each have a number that creates a homogenous, even sound.

    Here are the "balancings" that have become standard over time.

    Large orchestras
    16-18 first violins
    14-16 second violins
    10-12 violas
    8-10 cellos
    6-8 contrabasses

    Standard Romantic Orchestras
    12 first violins
    10 second violins
    8 violas
    6 cellos
    4 contrabasses

    Classical Chamber Orchestras
    8 first violins
    6 second violins
    5 violas
    4 cellos
    3 contrabasses

    Of course there are many little variations of these numbers, depending on an orchestras budget, technical possibilities of the stage, conductors preferences and the like. But this "inverted pyramid" string count has been tried and tested for over a hundred years and simply works. Inversely, you simply cannot have as many cellos as first violins, it just wouldn't work in terms of balance.

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    Senior Member Saturnus's Avatar
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    I have often pondered about this matter (while sitting through tacets or long pause in rehearsals....)

    10 first violin
    8 second violin
    8 violas
    6 cellos
    3 Contrabasses

    5 oboes (1 colla parte with 1st violin)
    2 oboe d'amore (1 colla parte with 2nd violin)
    2 cor anglais (1 colla parte with violas)
    1 Heckelphone

    3 flutes (one doubbling picollo)
    1 bass/tenor flute

    3 bassoons (1 colla parte with cellos)
    1 contrabassoon

    2 Clarinets
    1 Alto-clarinet
    1 Bass-clarinet

    no goddamn trumpets

    6 french horns

    4 trombones
    2 tubas

    2 Harps

    2 Timpani
    2 percussion

    ps. About all this colla parte doubble reed thing, I heard a record once that had two oboes colla parte with 1st and second violins and it sounded absolutely beautiful, I couldn't exactly hear the oboes but the strings had much richer tone than usually. I made a d'amore go with the second violin because in romantic scores I have studied the 2nd violins travel often down to their deepest a and g (notes the d'amore has but oboe not)
    Last edited by Saturnus; Apr-04-2007 at 23:30.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    First of all, I think it should be stated that in this thread, we are fantasizing as composers, not as conductors. The only decisions that conductors and orchestral GM's have to make in terms of the size of their orchestra is how many strings they "carry".

    All of this said, Saturnus, when you talk about this colla parte idea with the double reeds, are you thinking as a composer, in that you would orchestrate music in this way? If that is the case, then that's perfectly OK, as it comes down to a matter of personal preference. But I would like everyone to realize that from a conductor's point of view, these "fantasies" are relevant only in terms of the internal string ratios from string section to section, and in terms of the overall ratio of strings to winds/brass. The winds/brass orchestration is given by the specific compositions that are being played, not by the conductor's whim.

    That said, Saturnus, you don't have enough strings to balance your large wind/brass section. For that type of seating, you need the Large Orchestra string count that I have listed above. Also, internally, 10 first violins are too few to balance 8violas + 6cellos. I encourage people to read the strings counts that I have posted above, as they have been tried, tested and true for over a hundred years.

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    also, this 'colla parte' idea, i'd love to hear it and im not doubting you but i think that you are rather limiting the strings OR pushing the double reeds. I have seen string parts which as a double reed player, i wouldn't fancy bashing thorugh, even the 'cellos. If a composer is to write music in a classical or baroque style, this concept would be great. However, the modern string part is far more advanced and above the heads of the average double reed player, quite frankly, i doubt they'd be able to play the part because of the speed of the notes etc.

    As I said, i do see where you are coming from and i think this style could be put to great use.

    P.S. where are all your strings! They need doubling atleast!
    Mozart is sweet sunshine - Dvorak

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    I’ve reviewed my choice of instruments and found that the sound would be lacking in some areas.

    As a composer, this would be my preferred orchestra:

    21 first violins
    20 second violins
    15 violas
    20 cellos
    10 double basses
    1 electric guitar
    1 electric violin
    1 electric cello

    2 pianos
    4 harps

    20 sopranos
    15 altos
    15 tenors
    20 basses
    5 Russian sick-*** basses
    Soprano, alto, tenor and baritone/bass soloists (one of each)

    3 oboes (one also playing cor anglais)
    4 flutes (one also playing piccolo and one also playing bass flute)
    3 clarinets in Bb (one also playing bass clarinet)
    Soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes (one of each)
    3 bassoonists (one also playing contrabassoon)
    2 didgeridoos
    A mouth organ

    6 horns
    2 trumpets
    2 trombones
    1 bass trombone
    2 tubas

    4 pedal-operated timps
    2 side drums
    2 bass drums
    Lots of varieties of cymbals
    Drum kit
    Gong
    Triangle

    Celesta
    Marimba
    Vibraphone
    Tubular bells

    Organ
    Synthesizer
    Theremin


    That’s only 222 players and singers!
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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  15. #11
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    Edward Elgar, I would love to hear a Symphony for that orchestra

    however, you are an absolutle nut job lmao
    Mozart is sweet sunshine - Dvorak

  16. #12
    Senior Member Saturnus's Avatar
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    Kurkikohtaus:

    I agree that we should be fantasizing as composers, but as a conductor I would in some cases add the colla-parte double reeds, for it was a common style at certain times to include them and not expressed the notes.

    About the string section in my dream orchestra; you say that I would need a large string section. I disagree. Most of the time I listen to modern orchestras I don't like the balance, those trumpets are overwhelming and too much comes from the string section, so with my dream orchestra I don't want to have the balance that has been tried and tested over the ages (and then distorted by steel strings). It is maybe right to have a romantic string section (add 2 first and second violins, but keep only 3 Cbasses because of the 2 tubas) but I have absolutely no trumpets and a good part of the double-reed section is dedicated to strengthen the strings.

    Haydn: Some extreemly difficult passages would be simplified for the colla-parte reeds, but those players would still need posses well-above-average technique.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saturnus View Post
    ...as a conductor I would in some cases add the colla-parte double reeds, for it was a common style at certain times to include them and not expressed the notes.
    Those "certain times" is really only the Baroque period, I agree that in some places it would be tasteful. In classical and romantic music, it is impossible as a conductor to add double reeds to the strings, there isn't a single professional orchestra in the world that would allow you to do that. If you insisted (as a guest conductor), you would be asked by the general manager of the orchestra to comply to the norm or forfeit your appearance with the orchestra. If you insisted (as a music director), you would last a few concerts before you would be asked by the general manager to comply to the norm or have your contract revoked or at best bought out.

    In terms of your idea about string balance, I offer these 2 points:

    Here is the wind and brass seating that you have, not including the double-reeds that you specify as string doublers:

    4643 - 6042 - 2T+2perc - 2Hf
    The numbers represent Flutes-Oboes-Clarinets-Bassoons -- Horns-Trumpets-Trombones-Tubas -- Tympani + percussion -- Harps

    As ridiculous as this is, we are fantasizing as composers here, so what the hell, why not.

    --- BUT ---

    Compare the orchestration of large Mahler works:
    Symphony No. 1 -- 4443 - 7431 - T+3 - Hf
    Symphony No. 8 -- 6565 - 8871 - T+3 - 2Hf - cel,pf,org

    These ensembles are not too different from yours. The 1st symphony can be performed with as little as standard 16-14-10-8-6 string count. The 8th however, cannot. You simply put as many strings on stage as your orchestra can afford, 20 1st violins being the minimum. Anything less than that and you may as well have no strings at all, as they will not be heard when the full orchestra plays.

    I cannot accept your argument about "too much coming from the string section". A string section needs a certain minimum number of players in a given piece to achieve a the desired homogeneity of their internal sound and the right balance with the rest of the orchestra.

    If your argument is coming from listen to recordings, then I'm afraid it is irrelevant. If it is coming from your experience in live performance with a specific orchestra, then I believe you, but in that case, it is a question of what the conductor is asking for in rehearsals, the accoustics of the hall, and perhaps the qualities of individual players.

    Bottom line is that you simply cannot put 10-8-8-6-3 strings on stage with the wind/brass section that you have listed, and the "strengthening" lent by the double-reeds will do absolutely nothing against the power of the large band behind them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sebastianglabo View Post
    2 harps? thats a bit superflous!
    Not really. Harps can't play chromatically, so you need two to cover all the notes in more complex music. Wagner and Mahler occasionally used 6+.

    As for my ideal orchestra...what instruments...er...all of 'em?

    I dunno, it depends on the piece. Nothing like composing with limitations, though.

  19. #15
    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Josef Haydn View Post
    you are an absolutle nut job
    For my ambitious thoughts or lust for sound?
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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