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YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE
TO THE ORCHESTRA

THE ORCHESTRA

A modern symphony orchestra has a full strength of around 100 musicians enough to tackle many of the great virtuoso scores of the 20th Century, such as Stravinsky's explosive Rite of Spring and Richard Strauss' giant orchestral works.

Today's orchestra has developed in a relatively short time, from small ensebles of strings with a pair of woodwinds or brass instruments from the baroque period (late 17th to mid-18th Centuries), into a huge band of instruments of all varieties.

Although the string instruments resemble those of the earliest orchestras, they have been adapted and strengthened as the power and numbers of the wind and brass sections grew. Handel, writing in the early 18th Centuary, might have one horn, whereas Mahler at the begining of the 20th Centuary would demand eight.

In recent years, the music played by full symphony orchestras ranges from the great classical masterpieces of Mozart and Haydn to the modern classics of Bartock, Britten and Stravinsky.

The main instruments of the orchestra belong to four main categories:
Strings
Woodwind
Brass
Percussion

THE CONDUCTOR

Although he plays no instrument, the conductor is probably the most important element of an orchestral performance. He sets the tempo of the music, beats time, and gives shape and meaning to the written notes by suggesting - usually in rehearsals, occasionally through gestures in performance - how a melody should be phrased, how the instruments should be balanced against each other, and the impression the music should give to the listeners.


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