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concertmaster's job


Carl-Victor
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I have a question concerning the marking of bowings, fingerings, etc. I have recently been assigned to a first violin section where the concertmaster and her stand partner are constantly discussing and changing bowings during the rehearsals, and the rest of us are supposed to somehow scribble in all of these changes during the rehearsal. Very irritating. Shouldn't all of the bowings have been worked out prior to the first rehearsal? Or at the very least, shouldn't changes be discussed during the sectional? This is a community orchestra, although a very good one. I have also had this experience with a major university orchestra. How is this done with major orchestras? This concertmaster is paid, by the way. Any thoughts on the correct way this should be accomplished?

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"How is this done with major orchestras?"

Bowings are marked about a week before the first rehearsal and the parts are turned back in to the music library. That way if someone wants the part ahead of time (keep in mind that the orchestra may have as little as one rehearsal before a performance), the player can check out a copy. Major orchestras generally don't have sectionals. I don't think last-minute bowing changes are all that common, although players in a major orchestra are expected to be skilled enough to handle them should the need arise.

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I sympathize with your position. I sit next to our community orchestra's concertmaster, and sometimes things aren't worked out in advance, which makes me uncomfortable because I have to pass the "news" on not only to other players in our section, but to other sections. I hate whispering to others while the director is talking; not only do I feel that it's rude, but I may miss something that's important. I'm a strong believer in getting this stuff worked out in advance, so as not to waste everybody's time (not to mention irritate the conductor) during rehearsal. Fortunately our co-conductors are string players and usually go through and bow all the parts beforehand.

How to deal with your situation? I'd say it depends on your resources and relationships. If you have a cordial relationship with the leaders, you could say something like, "Say, could I come in a little early next rehearsal and get all those bowings?" That ought to give them a shove from behind. If you can't do that, you could maybe ask whoever's in charge of personnel, or if your conductor is a "regular guy/gal" whom you know socially, or at least casually, you could even go so far as to ask him or her.

My experience in community orchestras though is that all (well, usually all or at least almost all) the players are important, and the group is better off if things are, ahem, harmonious. You have a legitimate idea for improving rehearsal efficiency; if you put it that way, maybe nobody will get their nose put out of joint. It might help if you offer your own time to mark parts, or whatever else is needed to facilitate the effort; even if you're not needed in that capacity, the offer will probably be appreciated, and shows you want to take a positive approach to the problem.

Good luck to you!

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Bowings effect the sound of the section and therefor bowings can change from one rehersal to the other according to the conductor's taste.

in most of the european professional orchestras not the concertmaster but someone else from the section is in charge to decide bows and write them down.

and then if the conductor or the group leaders want to change something you are expected to do it quickly and professionally.

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I play in one orchestra with a similar situation. The concertmaster has changed bowings during the warmup for the concert. It drives me batty. My usual solution is to just do the bowings that I know work well and let the audience chalk up the differences in bow direction to the amateur status of the orchestra.

In an ideal world the concertmaster should work the bowings out before the first rehearsal and in cooperation with the librarian mark the parts. If during rehearsals a bowing is changed then the concertmaster or section leader needs to clearly communicate that to the rest of the section and not whisper and pass notes while the conductor is talking.

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Just wanted to thank everyone for the responses. I know this follow-on question may seem a bit picky, but I have also noticed that some of the weaker players simply avoid using the even positions if possible. That is, they constantly shift through the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th positions without using the 2nd, 4th, and 6th, (or half-position also) which are even written in and much easier. I realize this is no big deal in a local orchestra and it's fine just to have a full section that can even play the music at all (Sibelius and Khachaturian this season). My question is this : in major orchestras are all the members required to use precisely the same fingerings for all pieces? Is there some sort of penalty if they don't, such as a glare from the other players? Or is this a sort of cat-and-mouse game with some members simply refusing to follow the concertmaster's advice? Just curious.

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"My question is this : in major orchestras are all the members required to use precisely the same fingerings for all pieces?"

Nope, not at all. The concertmaster only marks bowings -- my husband tells me that it's a no-no to mark any kind of fingerings in the orchestra parts anyway (well, unless it's a tremendously awkward passage). At any rate, fingerings are up to the player. Of course a lot of the time one fingering will clearly work better than another. And the players are all highly skilled, often studied at the same handful of conservatories, and tend to approach a passage in the same way technically. But if you look closely you'll sometimes see players choosing different fingerings for a particular passage. No big deal.

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