The mindset around first vs. second violin is so deeply ingrained in our culture, even completely non-musical people occasionally say, "I don't want to play second-fiddle to such-and-such...."
It means "I don't want to be second in line" or "I don't want to be considered inferior."
Let's just get this straight, my friends, we all play the violin (or viola or cello) -- nobody here is inferior!
That said, the first violin part is often considered "harder" because typically it shifts to higher positions and can have more virtuosic stuff in there. But it's not always the case; a few examples include the Bach Double, with its equally difficult parts; the Moldau with its relentlessly noodley second part while the first violin sails easy on top; there are plenty others.
Easy or hard, it is true that first violin parts tend to have the melody and spotlight much of the time, with the second violin in a more supportive role. Whether you like those roles really depends on your personality. I really like that supportive role, maybe because I'm a teacher. I play duets quite often with my students, and of course they are playing their solo part. I enjoy being able to encourage a crescendo and other musical behavior by making it happen in that supportive music.
At the same time, sometimes its fun to just be out front and ride the wave, play the melody and ham it up! (Or, it can be scary!)
But the difficulty of either part is not the point, or at least it shouldn't be. Making music together is the point, and doing it as, well, harmoniously as possible!
Which do you like to play better, first or second violin? And if your answer is "both," tell us what you are in the mood for today, for example if you were to sit down in a quartet and someone said, "first or second today?" which one?
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