Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hello, Orchestra...

If you've ever listened to an orchestra and wondered what instruments you're listening to, here is a great piece to introduce the different members of the orchestra to you - or at least the instruments they're playing.

It's a work by a 20th Century English composer Benjamin Britten called The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra which originally had a narrator pointing out which instruments were playing at the time. It's basically a set of Variations on a Theme by Henry Purcell (an English composer who died in 1695) - and then Britten adds a big Fugue with each instrument taking a turn playing his Fugue Theme as the texture gets thicker and thicker. Near the very end, then, Britten brings back Purcell's stately Theme.

Here's a video of a complete performance of it (without narrator) performed by the You-Tube Symphony (the members auditioned through You-Tube and then gathered in a bricks-and-mortar concert hall for the performance...) with Michael Tilson Thomas, conducting.

Britten starts by stating the Theme in slightly different ways, first with full orchestra, then highlighting each of the different sections:

Theme (from Henry Purcell) – @00:10 by the full orchestra - @00:32 = played by the woodwinds - @00:56 = played by the brass - @01:17 = played by the strings - @01:35 = spotlighting the percussion section - @01:52 = again by the full orchestra

Then the Variations begin (scroll down to continue):
= = = = =

= = = = =

The Variations
@02:10 = for the flutes and piccolo - @02:44 = for the oboes - @03:38 = for the clarinets - @04:15 = for the  bassoons - @05:07 = for the violins - @05:40 = for the violas - @06:42 = for the cellos - @07:43 = for the basses (or double basses) - @08:45 = for the harp - @09:34 = for the horns (or French horns) - @10:21 = for the trumpets - @10:52 = for the trombones (@11:33 you can see & hear the tuba, also) - @12:07 = for the percussion, starting with the timpani (or kettledrums) then introducing @12:22 = cymbals and bass drum; @12:33 = tambourine; @11:43 = snare drum; @12:52 = xylophone; @13:04 = castanets and @13:20 = the whip (oh no, not the whip!)

The Fugue
@13:52 = Fugue theme begins in the piccolo then continues in the flutes, then oboes, clarinets, bassoons -- @14:34 = Fugue continues in the strings: violins, then violas, then cellos and basses -- @15:05 = Fugue theme in the harp -- @15:18 = Fugue theme starts in the brass: horns, trumpets, then trombones and tuba -- @15:37 = add the percussion -- @15:47 = while the Fugue Theme continues hurrying around through most of the orchestra, the brass sections begins playing Henry Purcell’s stately original Theme as it was heard at the opening. Note how they seem to be going at different speeds and in conflicting pulses -- @16:16 = wrapping it up with a big full-orchestra finale.

- Dick Strawser

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a Comment