September 30, 2010 at 9:16 AM
Let's hear it for the seconds! If the second violins didn't turn up, the conductor and the firsts would be a right panic, I can tell you I've been told, on good authority, that the second violin part is frequently technically more difficult than that of the firsts (I can believe it), and, from my own experience in the section it is just as interesting as the firsts.
Historically, I suppose, the seconds have been viewed as less important because, in schools, there is, or certainly has been, a tendency to put the less technically able violinists into the second violins. The music played in schools is likely to have been arranged to reflect this tendency. Hence the view, too often held, that the seconds are somehow second-class. In reality, of course, the firsts and seconds are, or should be, just one body of equal violinists, but divided into two sections for musical reasons. In my chamber orchestra it is standard practice to swap players between the two sections - the only ones who are never swapped are the two leaders.
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