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Venue for No. 7

 
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Andrew B
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 5:32 am    Post subject: Venue for No. 7 Reply with quote

I just came across this interesting old photo – inside the ’Auditorium’ (later known as Winter Palace) in Stockholm's Norra Bantorget – home of the Konsertförening Orchestra’s concerts between 1914 and 1926 and the hall in which Sibelius’s Seventh Symphony was premièred.

This is not a photo from that concert, of course – I assume, however, that it is from much the same period. Georg Schnéevoigt was the orchestra’s principal conductor from 1915 until 1924, followed by Václav Talich.

They do look rather packed onto the small stage, don’t they? And note the disposition of the orchestra (cellos, basses, second violins) according to the standard Nordic arrangement at that time. I don't mind at all if modern orchestras and conductors adopt this seating arrangement in Sibelius as a way of producing a more authentic sound image (opinions, Kurki?).


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Tapkaara
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 1:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Venue for No. 7 Reply with quote

Andrew B wrote:


They do look rather packed onto the small stage, don’t they? And note the disposition of the orchestra (cellos, basses, second violins) according to the standard Nordic arrangement at that time. I don't mind at all if modern orchestras and conductors adopt this seating arrangement in Sibelius as a way of producing a more authentic sound image (opinions, Kurki?).


What would make it more authentic?

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Andrew B
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Putting the double basses at the back, cellos second from left and second violins on the right – thus producing quite a different sound picture (though I admit that in Sibelius it isn't as big a difference as, say, in Elgar or Beethoven).

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Tapkaara
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting, Andrew. But is this really more "authentic" than a standard orchestra? I guess my question is: Is this how Sibelius wanted his music performed?

In other words, if this arrangement is a quirk common in Nordic orchestras of the time, is this what Sibelius wanted? He obviously would have been well acquainted with "standard" continental orchestras as well, so it seems he would have had his pick as to which configuration appealed to his tastes more. I'd have thought he would have opted for a traditional orchestral set-up.

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Kurkikohtaus
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 1:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I swap my seconds and cellos only for Bruckner and Brahms, I also did it for Beethoven's 9th but not his other symphonies. Unfortunately I cannot put the basses along the back in our hall, so when I do this I put them behind the cellos as an extension of that section.

I choose this seating when I feel the composer writes stereophonic effects between the 1st and 2nd violins, or at least writes violin parts that are very independant of each other. Also, in music of the aforementioned composers, the 1sts and cellos often are scored as "playing together" (this is a subjective thing, I don't want to qualify it at this time), so it makes sense for me to have them side by side.

It honestly never occured to me to seat the orchestra this way for Sibelius. We're done for the year as far as his works are concerned, I'll think about it again in 2009-10.

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Andrew B
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 4:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, in Sibelius's day that was the traditional seating arrangement, at least in the Nordic countries, and I think in Berlin and Vienna they probably sat in the order V1–V2–Vcl–Va – so he probably wouldn't even have considered the one that is now most common (I can't think of any orchestra if Sibelius's time [at least during his active composing career] that put the cellos on the right). I know some conductors still prefer those configurations consistently even today, citing among their reasons that string intonation problems may be reduced by having bass instruments in a more central position, where they can be more clearly heard by the violins. Maybe so… I don't think it's a matter of life or death in Sibelius's music but there are certainly moments when it would be nice to hear the antiphonal effect (Symphony No. 7, 2 bars before Q, or the very start of Symphony No. 6).

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kullervopete
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 12:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lets also remember that seating arrangements apart, orchestral resources were pretty thin on the ground in Helsinki at the turn of the century. When Kajanus founded the Helsinki Orchestra Society [the present day Helsinki Philharmonic] in 1882, it was the first regular full-sized orchestra in the Nordic countries with just 36 players! Of course things slowly improved but comparing todays 90 plus orchestra musicians, the sound would have been much smaller when Sibelius premiered many of his works.--kp

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kullervopete wrote:
When Kajanus founded the Helsinki Orchestra Society [the present day Helsinki Philharmonic] in 1882, it was the first regular full-sized orchestra in the Nordic countries with just 36 players!

We played Sibelius' 3rd and 7th with 45 players... obviously a little small but our hall seats only 360 so we don't need a huge orchestra to make a good sound.

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kullervopete
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 2:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kurkikohtaus wrote:
kullervopete wrote:
When Kajanus founded the Helsinki Orchestra Society [the present day Helsinki Philharmonic] in 1882, it was the first regular full-sized orchestra in the Nordic countries with just 36 players!

We played Sibelius' 3rd and 7th with 45 players... obviously a little small but our hall seats only 360 so we don't need a huge orchestra to make a good sound.


Good point. Its amazing just what a huge sound Sibelius can get from an orchestra of modest proportions compared to the mamoth forces required by people such as Mahler and Strauss.-kp

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