Tuesday, April 26, 2022

What size was Mozart's orchestra?





Today, we tend to think of an orchestra as being large, but that wasn't always the case. In fact, it was relatively recently that orchestras truly became huge.

During the 18th century, the average orchestra was probably at most
perhaps 20-22 musicians. Haydn's orchestra when working for the Esterhazy family was often no more than 14-16 players.

For Mozart when he was in Vienna, there actually was no "orchestra" as such, but musicians were contracted by the composer for individual performances. The same was true as late as Beethoven's time, though the concept of community orchestras had started to spread. Even so, the orchestras were usually much smaller than might be thought.

This impacts how we hear the music in several ways. Perhaps most importantly for the overall sound is the balance between strings and winds/brass. If a modern symphonic orchestra plays a Haydn or Mozart Symphony, they might have as many as 18 violins, 5-6 violas, 6-8 cellos, and 4-5 basses. For Haydn and Mozart, it was probably more often maybe 8 violins, 2-3 violas, 3 cellos, 1-2 basses. On our May 1 program, the two symphonies also use 1 flute (Haydn), 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, and 2 horns. Clearly, the balance will be closer to what Haydn and Mozart heard and conceived.

There is a further element to understanding the balance as well. String instruments in the 18th and early 19th centuries were much softer. So, not only is a modern orchestra playing with a balance not intended by the composers due to the number of string players, 
but also due to the modern strings being louder and projecting more strongly.

As orchestras grew in size, it was always the string players that were increased. Thus, Haydn's Symphony #61 might have been created with an understanding of having 7 violins, 2 violas, 3 cellos, 1 bass along with 1 flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, and 2 horns.

Yet when a modern orchestra programs the work, there might be 18 violins, 6 violas, 6 cellos, and 3 basses, but still just the 1 flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, and 2 horns.

Enjoy Haydn's dynamic Symphony #61 and Mozart's exciting Symphony #25.

Along with works by these famous and favorite composers, enjoy a rarely heard work by a lesser-known composer. BONJ bassoonist Andrew Pecota will play Eugène Bourdeau's Premier Solo de Basson as well as a surprise encore!

Completing this special concert will be a performance of Winter Dances, composed by good friend Amy Reich.

Maestra Reich will be at the concert to meet and talk about composing in the 21st Century.

Wassail Concert Rescheduled

May 1, 2022, at 2:00 PM

Dolan Hall, Saint Elizabeth University

2 Convent Road, Morristown, NJ

Premier Solo de Basson - Eugène Bourdeau

Symphony #61 - Franz Joseph Haydn

Winter Dances - Amy Reich

Symphony #25 - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


Thank you for sharing our events
during the COVID pandemic and for being with us as we return to live in-person concerts.

We couldn't do it without you!

Thank you for sharing our collaborative performances with Keys 2 Success, The New York Classical Music Society, First Night Morris County, Minardi Salon, and other organizations together producing great music.

Thank you for sharing Bach, Bagels, and Bob on Saturday mornings where we could be together to meet our artists and each other while watching memorable videos from the BONJ archives.

Thank you for sharing our Virtual Concerts and YouTube Premiere Broadcasts.

We thank you greatly for your generous support.

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 We cannot do it without you!

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The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey,

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