Quartet - second violin on the right?
I'm listening to Mozart's dissonance quartet on you tube payed by the Quatuor Mosaïques- the recording with the moving score (using my amazing new headphones).
I have to play this later in the summer so I am particularly listening for the second violin. As this is a stereo recording the first violin is clearly to the left - but so is the cello while the second violin and viola are to the right.
Has anyone come across this particular seating arrangement before? This quartet plays on period instruments but (according to Wiki) is not obsessive about historically authentic performance - though I wondered if that was a clue.
I know there are conventional seatings, but in my opinion the actual seating should be set up for the sound, which depends on the instruments, the players and the venue. Cello low tones come out best straight ahead - that would put the cello in the 2nd or 3rd spot from the audience left. There is a closer relationship between viola and 2nd violin parts than with either of the others - so the seating you mentioned could play a part and the #2 spot is as good for the cello's bass sound as the #3. Violin sound seems to project best to its right and straight ahead - so 1st and 2nd in the usual 1-2 seating is OK. Viola would also do well with that seating, but as my Mormon friends have said about other things, '"Violists' usually suck left hind teat." By seating to the far right they have no advantage at all.
Andrew is right as far as I know. Most quartets feature the two violins on the left, the cello right back, and the viola right front. At least that is how the Emerson and Shanghai Quartets, which are the ones I see most, do it. But, there is no requirement for that configuration, and various factors may counsel a different one. Ultimately, the key is that the cello be facing the audience for the reason Andrew stated. Once you have that, the placement of the violins and viola probably is not as crucial.
"when Daniel Barenboim directed the CSO, he put the second violins right front. I am not sure how much it really matters."
Do a search for the Kolisch Quartet. Kolisch played left handed ahd rearranged the quartet to suit his needs. He had a Stradivari converted to left-handed, 1718 if memory serves correctly.
Herman - the concert I saw was Schubert ##8 and 9, but I think Barenboim used that seating all the time.
What headphones did you get? :-)
The "standard" orchestral seating isn't actually that old, though. It was first introduced by Leopold Stokowski and Henry Wood in the 1920s, and as late as March 1940, the Chicago Tribune called it a "radical realignment" when the CSO adopted that seating arrangement. It wasn't adopted in continental Europe until the late 1940s. Prior to the 1920s, "standard" orchestral seating always had the second violins on the right side of the stage. Even today, some people refer to VnI-VnII-Vla-Vcl as "American seating" in contrast to the traditional VnI-Vcl-Vla-VnII ("Vienna seating").
When I was a kid, I was taught to sit violin 1 - violin 2 - viola - cello for quartet, just like the typical orchestral seating.
Yes, The Eybler quartet sits like that. If I remember correctly their justification is that this particular layout was indeed common during Beethoven era:
The Chamber Orchestra I've been playing in the past 8 years has been sitting violin 1, cello, viola, violin 2. We have no conductor so all of us (and the winds and percussion and harp when we have them) need sightlines to follow the concertmaster. We tried the old "American" violin 1, 2, viola, cello for a few weeks but it's not as good for us. Previously I'd always played that seating in conducted orchestras (62 years). I first saw the an orchestra with the 2nd violins opposite the firsts at a concert in Adelaide, Australia 32 years ago.
I have seen a photo of the NBC orch. with Toscannini using that not-so-old seating with the second violins on the right side. For low-budget community orchestras it works well because you can load up the second violin section with lots of volunteers without affecting the balance. Putting the Violas next to the 1st violins gives that usually depleted section a boost. You want the basses to be more towards the middle of the orchestra, right behind the cellos.
Lydia asked (glad someone did :D ) : "What headphones did you get? :-) "
I saw them a year or two ago, and I can't remember any weird seating, but I don't remember much from that aside from not liking the performance.
I too learned as a kid (in the U.S.) the "standard" way of violin 1, violin 2, viola, cello. A conductor that I work with uses violin 1, cello, viola, violin 2 for a small college orchestra and a younger youth orchestra - says that it's good for developing independence of the 2nd violins (overall caliber of players not being competitively high). The group I run is short on cellos so we have the violins on both sides.
Elise, interesting, I've never seen those before, very cool.
As first violinist I'd rather sit next to the cello than V2 - easier to hear the root of the quartet..
In addition to Toscanini, Klemperer used to put the seconds on his right. Very obvious in his stereo EMI recordings. He may have been the last before the early-music crowd revived it. Clarifies textures a lot, which not everyone prefers for Strauss or Debussy.
Lydia - I bought the earphones on a whim - so I think I'm pretty lucky to come out unscathed. Would love to see the field, as it were, though.
Surely it's like an orchestra?
The question is not where the 2nds sit (either quartet or orchestra), but rather who is willing to put up with proximity to the viola.
"Surely it's like an orchestra"
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