What's the difference between a soloist and an orchestra violinist?
The title says it all. What are the core differences between a typical orchestra violinist (or a musician as well I guess) and a soloist?
Do soloists normally play way better than orchestra musicians?
Do they practice a lot more?
Are they worse at some things?
What are the main skills that make you be a soloist?
The soloist plays the solo part; the orchestra violinist play first and second violinist parts!
In a world of hyper-precision virtuosity expected from anyone in the upper echelon of playing, I suspect being 'a soloist' as a career is more a result of:
If all the orchestra players played like the soloist it would sound very messy!
Many virtuosic violinists have been or still been playing in orchestra for several years, for it is not easy to become a soloist within a short period of time, for example, Svetlin Roussev is concertmaster of Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra, Rudolf Koelman is former concertmaster of Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Ilya Kaler is former concertmaster of Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Massimo Quarta is former concertmaster of Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia, and Vincenzo Bolognese been Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. Those whose career lead to virtuosic soloist directly could be considered to be a fortune. I think many orchestral violinists can be compared with some virtuosic violinists who signed by recording companies, merely in terms of techniques and agilities.
As a soloist you have to be able to perform flawlessly under terrifying scrutiny and pressure.
Here's Hillary Hahn interviewing Alex Kerr touching upon some of your questions.
this past entry on v.com is interesting, the two-volume book mentioned there is also very interesting, I have it.
And then there is that rare breed - CM + soloist + conductor + quartet founder/leader + teacher, all under one hat. I have in mind Dennis Simons, the current conductor of Bristol Chamber Orchestra.
Orchestra violinists usually sleep at home*, successful soloists - not so much!
I've thought about this in that past, and in other threads I've tried to inject the question as follows:
Once upon a time In America/NYC, it helped if the head of the violin cartel liked you ( if you aspire to a solo career and have the digital skills); or at least wouldn’t do anything to actively sabotage your career.
Mischa Mischakoff*, long-time concertmaster (CM) of the NBC Symphony under Toscanini kind of set the standard for CM-level talent - at least among the great orchestras of the Western Hemisphere. Even after he retired he was in demand as a soloist, playing concertos with other orchestras even into his 80s. I think that level of ability is still being hired to CM our great orchestras.
Joshua Roman was principal cellist with the Seattle Symphony for two years before his rockstar solo career began. I'm sure I've seen every one of the CMs perform as a soloist with the orchestra. Many of our symphony musicians play in chamber ensembles as well. They are all excellent musicians.
Violin soloists have several characteristics that make them successful:
There are many strata of soloists.
OK, by soloist I mean the violinist who plays the Bruch concerto and then the rest of violinists that play in the orchestra.
"What are the main skills that make you be a soloist?" Determination, skill, time management, personal discipline, and the willingness to be an independent contractor. Many professional musicians can play as well as the professional soloist but they don't want the life of a totally independent contractor.
Tim, I think
Andrew, my childhood violin teacher knew Mischakoff. They played together (I believe they may have shared a stand!) in the Scandinavian Symphony of Detroit, a pick-up group that Mischakoff led in his "retirement." The Scandinavian Symphony is not mentioned in Mischakoff's Wikipedia page, but you can find a recording of the group on YouTube.
A few points: