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THE B.B.C. ORCHESTRA
(Led by MARIE WILSON )
Conducted by ARTHUR CATTERALL
SINCE (the days of Bach and Handel, composers who have written works to bo played by a number of string instruments alone have done so deliberately, and have been careful to make the fact known in the title of the piece —even Mozart and Haydn did so-but before their day it was scarcely necessary, since orchestras were practically composed only of string players. True, both Bach and Handel frequently added oboes, bassoons, and trumpets, and, less often, several other instruments, but that was done with the idea mainly of adding volume and power to the strings, or of giving an individual character to solos, bpt with no notion of imparting richness and colour to the orchestration -a development in tone painting that had not yet been given its head.
The original corner stone of the string orchestra was the viola. On that instrument, the chief inheritor of the viol and its family, all the stringed instruments in use today are founded, as, indeed, their names imply. Yet, in point of fact, the viola took its place in the orchestra much later than the others, for the early combinations of strings were made up of violins and a bass (which meant the violoncello and its deeper octave) filled in as to the middle harmonies with organ or harpsichord. Gradually, however, the needs of a fuller music demanded a more sensitive machine and the st ring orchestra as we know it was developed and finally established. Yet, as a , consequenceof the absence of any but tho crudest notion of orchestral colour in the minds of composers of the eighteenth century—excluding Mozart, as one invariably docs in any sweeping statement of fact—praetically the whole music of that period is drawn of necessity in black and white, and as there are no tools better adapted to orchestral line and wash than the family of stringed instruments, it is not surprising that in the rich mine of music of the past a vein of eighteenth-century concerted string music of amazing value has been unearthed in recent years.
Sextet, Op. 70 (Souvenir de Florence)
1. Allegro con spirito; 2. Adagio cantabile e con moto ; 3. Allegretto moderato ; 4. Allegro vivace
THE technique of scoring with orchestral colour has developed slowly. A whole century, with Wagner intervening, lies between the achievements of Beethoven and Richard Strauss , and the best part of another between the deathless experiments of Berlioz and Ravel's silken diaphane. And with it all, to this day the string orchestra holds its own. The reason is clear.
The convention that the palette of orchestral tone is roughly divided into three sections—strings, wood wind, and brass— each functioning individually, was born lusty and is dying hard. This convention was practised by the majority of romantic composers of the nineteenth century, and it served them very well. One universally acknowledged axiom, however, governed all their operations, and out of it arose a second axiom of equal value. The first was that by skilfully spreading and spacing chords, colour variety could be achieved and controlled, and the second was that the string section is in this respect the only self-contained one. Moreover, it was quickly discovered that string colour is tho most satisfying and palls least of the three. That accounts for the sustained favour which the string orchestra has enjoyed without a break to modern times. Nearly all the symphonic composers havo made handsome gifts to the repertory of string orchestral music—one of the wealthiest of all the repertories. It would ho impossible to mention all even of the finest of the string orchestral works written during the last hundred years, hut those composers who will come readily to the mind in this connexion include Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Elgar, Dvorak and Crieg.
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