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Which violinist is more important in an orchestra?


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I think it depends on the individuals involved. Sometimes the concertmaster is hired primarily for chops and not for musicality (i.e. s/he may be a better violinist, but not a better musician). I've seen instances when the principal 2nd and the associate concertmaster were better musicians than the concertmaster, and instances where the principal 2nd and the associate concertmaster were both good musicians, but one was a better technician.

It is sometimes unfortunate when a concertmaster can play well, but doesn't have any idea how to set bowings that work for the section. That can really hamper an orchestra. It is especially frustrating in that situation, when you have an associate concertmaster and principal second who would be far more capable at setting good bowings, but they don't have a say in it!

If you don't have a good player as principal second and the section suffers because of a lack of leadership, that can be more debilitating than if you don't have a good associate concertmaster (except in those rare instances when the CM is ill and the AC is playing concertmaster).

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This may be a bit toungue-in-cheek, but isn't the most important violinist the last stand second violin? After all, isn't an orchestra only as good as its least accomplished member? Obviously, the best orchestras don't hire anyone without great credentials, but I am thinking more about community and university orchestras, which generally have half a dozen good players, and a lot of barely adequate ones filling up the back spaces.

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