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Several Composers profile image

Several Composers

Joined 7 years ago

23

4

1

The orchestra of today, with various instruments performing different parts of the same score, had its beginnings in the 17th century. Before then, groups of musical instruments performing together had always been assigned identical parts in a composition. One of the earliest composers to assign different parts to various instruments in an ensemble was the Italian Claudio Monteverdi. The score of his opera Orfeo, performed in 1607, required 2 harpsichords, 2 wood organs, about 19 stringed instruments, and trombones, trumpets, and other wind instruments.

The composition of the orchestra gradually changed in the 17th and 18th centuries as new instruments were added and old ones were eliminated. The violins took over the function of the older viols, and the transverse flute replaced the recorder. With the elimination of the harpsichord, which had been the principal chord-playing instrument, the burden of carrying the harmony was delegated in large measure to stringed instruments. The compositions of many 17th-century and 18th-century composers, including Alessandro Scarlatti, Bach, and Handel, were heavily scored for stringed instruments with only relatively minor support from the wind instruments. Bach's orchestra included about 20 instrumentalists. By Mozart's time, however, more instruments, notably the clarinet and French horn, had become increasingly important. At this period the string section was enlarged, and the orchestra grew to about 40 members.

The orchestra of Beethoven, which brought new emphasis to the brass section, became the standard for much of the 19th century. After Beethoven's time the orchestra expanded, rather than changed. The orchestras of Richard Wagner and Gustav Mahler, for example, often contained more than 100 players. In the 20th century the scope of the orchestra was gradually reduced to its present size. However, the size and composition of the orchestra will probably continue to be modified.

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  • Entertainment and Media (23)
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