February 17, 2012 at 7:50 PMWhere should the second violins sit?
Sometimes, when a new conductor comes to town, he makes changes and riles up the violins. For example, when Victor Yampolsky came to the Omaha Symphony (right after I left town), he placed the second violins opposite the firsts, and I'm pretty sure one intention was to strengthen the seconds. They needed to get a little more assertive, to hear themselves as a section, coalesce their sound.
When Gustavo Dudamel came to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he placed the second violins next to the firsts, which was a change from the "European style" that had been favored by conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, who had the seconds opposite the firsts. It caused a minor uproar, but he said that pieces that have the firsts and seconds playing together a lot work well with the side-by-side configuration, while other pieces worked well with the across-the-orchestra set-up.
Pieces with a lot of call-and-response or contrapuntal playing between the two sections can make for good visual theater, with the sections on different sides of the conductor.
What do you think? Should the seconds be next to the firsts, opposite, or changing concert-to-concert?
Indeed, perhaps we could all play with the fiddle on the right shoulder to make that opposite-the-firsts configuration work? Or not!
I did orchestra for only about 7 years, ages 14-21. As a player who spent time in both sections, I preferred having the two parts together at the conductor's left. Others may differ, but I felt that there was better unit cohesion this way, because the players with similar needs and concerns -- and setups -- were together. And I felt it was easier in this layout for each section to hear and feel what the other was doing.
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