Best orchestrator?

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Best orchestrator?

Postby serge urtizberea » Fri Dec 01, 2000 3:19 am

Talking about Saint-Saens and Schumann got me going about the virtues of orchestrational skill. I find Berlioz and Beethoven to have been outstanding orchestrators (Berlioz esp. with his use of brass and full sound out of pared-down strings), Schumann and Mahler a little less skilled. Is there a "best" orchestrator in your mind? Is it possible to define one?<BR>I personally find if the brass & woodwinds have distinct and "useful" solos and clarity, it helps make the strings' dominance less of a bore.
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Re: Best orchestrator?

Postby jackm » Fri Dec 01, 2000 2:26 pm

Some examples of 'great' orchestrators:<P>Ravel - Bolero is a textbook example of orchestration. The theme is repeated without significant variation but the color changes constantly. You can even hear his organ roots with the addition of the flute as a 'nazard' (playing the same melody as the rest of the orchestra but in a different key, a major third above the tonic).<P>Ravel (again) for his orchestration of "Pictures at an Exhibition"<P>Britten - "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra". Cute but very inventive.<P>Ferde Grofe - as staff arranger for Paul Whiteman's orchestra he got the score to "Rhapsody in Blue" a few days before the premier. Gershwin had written it for two pianos and Ferde is the one responsible for turning one of those parts into the wonderful orchestration you hear today. Maybe not up there with the big boys but you've got to admire what he did in two days.<P>Jack<P>
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Re: Best orchestrator?

Postby ReedMan » Fri Dec 01, 2000 3:29 pm

For 20th century orchestrators, I find some of Nielsen's scores to be unique & interesting. The clarinet concerto sounds like it was written by a crazed genius. He could use percussion instruments to make his point clear, sometimes in a violent manner.<P>I could not listen to his music every day, since it is not exactly cheery stuff - but he manages to create a musical alphabet that is very effective.
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Re: Best orchestrator?

Postby shostakovich » Fri Dec 01, 2000 11:21 pm

I'm also hooked on orchestration, the BIG SOUND. If we think of the elements of music as melody, harmony, rhythm, tone color, and form (which are usually essential elements in your old Music 101 course), orchestration is the manipulation of tone color (the sound qualities of the instruments themselves). Berlioz is the first composer that emphasized tone color as much or more than the other elements. Composers before him did not have the variety of instruments he had to work with, so tone color was not a big issue before 1830 (Symphonie Fantastique). He had the idea of PAINTING PICTURES in sound. The greatest developments in PAINTING during the 1800s took place in FRANCE. It's not unreasonable that it should have been a French composer who tried to translate pictures into music. Berlioz was the right man at the right time and place. His ideas, embodied in his Treatise on Instrumentation (which I've only read ABOUT), generated a new (19th C. style as in Liszt and Wagner), as opposed to old (18th C. style as in Brahms and Mendelssohn) direction in music. <BR> Rimsky-Korsakov, in his autobiography (which I HAVE read), told of how, as a novice music professor, he used Berlioz's book "as a new bride uses a cookbook". In my own enjoyment of orchestration I've thought about the "3 Rs of Orchestration" (my own designation), Rimsky-Korsakov, Ravel, and Respighi. Respighi, by the way, studied partly under Rimsky-Korsakov. There are certainly others, including Berlioz, himself, but "3 Rs" is catchy. After all, "the 3 Bs" (whose greatness has to do with another element, form, with its thematic development) leaves out Mozart, but that doesn't stop people from using the catchy "3 Bs". I hope my pontificating on subjects of special interest to me doesn't annoy anybody. It's a very classy clientele at this web site.
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Re: Best orchestrator?

Postby Kevin » Mon Dec 04, 2000 12:15 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by jackm:<BR><B>Some examples of 'great' orchestrators:<P>Ravel (again) for his orchestration of "Pictures at an Exhibition"<P>Britten - "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra". Cute but very inventive.<P></B><HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Every orchestration class I have ever taken uses examples from Ravel and Britten probably more than any other composers. I think what makes them particularly effective is their ability to use the instruments economically. With Mahler and Wagner and even Saint-Saens and Sibelius (all decent orchestrators) there are many places in the scores where instruments are playing passages that will NEVER be heard due to being overpowered by the strings, brass and/or percussion. With Ravel and Britten, if they write it, you'll hear it well balanced in the mix.
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Re: Best orchestrator?

Postby shostakovich » Mon Dec 04, 2000 6:09 pm

Hi Kevin,<BR> It's great to know there is a composer among us. I wonder how many others are. I want to thank you for your comments on orchestration. It's interesting that "economy" is a key word in your experience and that Ravel and Britten are so highly regarded. I think I read that Ravel composed for piano and for orchestra simultaneously. That is, he often wrote works that were sufficient in piano (or 2-piano) versions, and which were intended for orchestration as well. A good number of his works bear out the success he had with that plan. <BR> I had never thought of Britten as a man of the orchestra, as many of his works are for small groups, and often with voice. Yet he has been considered by several 20th C. composers, including my namesake, Shostakovich, to be a great one, himself. Thinking of his Sea Interludes, the Storm is a beautiful job of orchestrating in my sense of "big sound". On the other hand, Sunday Morning, in its economy of instruments, is just as effective in conveying a mood. I'll have to open up my vision of what an "orchestrator" is. Can you give me a few examples of works that are considered masterpieces of economical orchestration?<BR> You also mentioned Sibelius, one of my absolute favorites. You've got me wondering how much more I'd love his music if I could hear beneath the strings and brasses. There seemed to be a turning point in his career between Sym #2 (overblown and magnificent) and #3 (spare and beautiful). Is he considered a better orchestrator after the change?<BR> Good luck with your composing career. It can't be an easy one. Shos
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