Out of curiosity I wonder if anyone wants to comment on whether first or second violin is more difficult. I have played both in orchestras. I find 2nd more difficult. My teacher in the 40’s and 50’s was The concertmaster in the Toronto Symphony in the 30’s and he said that 2nd was harder mainly because it is different than 1st. I realize that there are many variables.
I have found 2nd violin very much more difficult than first; it's hard to practice because it doesn't always make sense (to me, anyway) in isolation.
1st and 2nd are difficult in different ways.
All good points
Mozart 2nd violin parts are often harder than his 1st violin parts.
Got our first rehearsal this evening of Bruckner 4 - for the 2nd violins that's 22 pages of fairly dense score. This symphony is in E-flat, but that doesn't stop it from moving happily through the spectrum into double-flats on occasion.
I'm just gonna be that guy with the 'basic/immature' answer amongst you all and say that 1st violin is definitely harder than 2nd. Obviously both have their difficulties, but if we assume that a violinist has a solid grasp of the core concepts in playing both, and has much experience in playing both parts, then in my opinion 1st violin part is harder.
As one who played in the back chairs of the seconds by choice for a few decades I can say from my perspective: "it's different." To be sure the fists are expected to go way up the fingerboard and the seconds rarely play much above third position (yes there is some literature that drives the seconds higher). The difference is, as many have mentioned, the seconds tend to be supportive and rarely get the melody. Hence as another noted, practicing the part in isolation is far from fulfilling to your musical need for melodic structure. Finally, some pieces are technically demanding for the seconds.
It should be noted that while 2nd violin parts rarely get high up on the E string, there are many 2nd violin parts that SHOULD be played in the higher positions on other strings for tone color reasons.
2nd violins were hard when I was a kid.
2nd parts can be more nuanced, it's true. But until you get to that stage of technical development where the stuff in the high registers is something you find easy, then you're going to find the 1st parts harder. Viola parts are typically easier. We are doing Mozart K136 (D major Divertimento) the violins are working pretty hard and my viola part is kind of a joke. 2nds need to work hard in that one.
If one is only having to play K-12 school orchestra arrangements all day long, of course violin 1 is more challenging.