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Thread: Sordino in Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Flight of the Bumblebee'

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    Default Sordino in Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Flight of the Bumblebee'

    Hi, wondering if anyone here has experience working on the orchestral arrangement of Flight of the Bumblebee, either as a player in the string section or as conductor?

    I'm currently working on an arrangement of the piece. Looking at the original score, it's calling for sordinos on the first violins, but there's no mention of it for the other strings.
    Screenshot 2021-07-30 172216.png

    I get that at the start the other strings are playing Pizzicato, but when the violas and second violins change to arco, the score doesn't indicate sordino for those parts.
    Screenshot 2021-07-30 172322.png

    Could it be that the 'con sordino' indication is for the entire string section? Or is it that only the first violins are mute and the rest just sing out at full tone?

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    Senior Member mbhaub's Avatar
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    It is correct as written in the score. The con sordino is just for the firsts. Your idea that it would make sense for the 2nds and violas to also play con sordino later is a good one, but the problem is the speed of the work: going from pizz to mute takes time and there's not enough. The other thing is that if every 2nd suddenly slips the mute on at the same time it's going to be heard as an audible clunk. In the score I use when I've conducted it the first problem occurs between bars 39 and 40, going from arco to pizz. So why, you may ask, not just have the pizz played con sordino? Because there would be no resonance and volume would be a problem. There are several composers I've learned over the years to never second guess, and Rimsky-Korsakov is one of them. The man knew what he was doing.
    "It is surprising how easily one can become used to bad music" - F. Mendelssohn

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    Thank you for such a clear and complete answer.

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    Senior Member mbhaub's Avatar
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    I should have added one thing: to keep the 2nds sounding somewhat similar to the muted 1st, if the conductor has them use the bow closer to, even on, the fingerboard - that is, not close to the bridge - that same softer, less full sound is achieved.
    "It is surprising how easily one can become used to bad music" - F. Mendelssohn

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