Listening to instruments in the Orchestra

Woodwind

Mozart: Serenade No 10 in B _at K361 Gran Partita

The combination of oboe and brass in this piece together with Mozart’s harmonies evoke images of balmy summer evenings. It’s just perfect.

Brass

Sir Malcolm Arnold: Quintet for Brass (Op. 73) – Allegro Vivaci

From the very first beat this work showcases the ability of the brass section to perform accurate and fast movement up and down the scale due to the attack segment of the overall tone. Brass instruments are also able to “fade in” giving them an extraordinary range of expressions. The Chaconne (Mvt. 2) illustrates this nicely.

Strings

Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis

Williams has really gone to town with this piece, showing us a broad range of dynamics and expression available from the string instruments. Like the brass, we have the option of smooth or fast attack to the tone but with two added options: Endless sustain (due to the bowing action) which now allows the orchestra to seamlessly join sections and phrases, changing the theme while keeping the mood, and Pizzicato.

Percussion

Edgard Varèse: Ionisation

This clearly gives us the full range of sounds available from orchestral (and other) percussion instruments. Unfortunately I feel that it was let down by the composer feeling the need to fill every available beat and sub-beat with percussive noise. The air-raid siren was also, I feel, a mistake.

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