From Song to Symphony: A Manual of Music Appreciation

By Daniel Gregory Mason | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER VII
ORCHESTRAL MUSIC (THE CLASSIC PERIOD)

THE FIRST STAGE OF THE ORCHESTRA (1600-1750)

THE modern symphonic orchestra, as we know it today, with its four groups of instruments, strings, wood-wind, brass, and percussion, * so delicately balanced and interrelated in soft passages, so overwhelming in sonority when the whole body of about one hundred men are playing together, is the outcome of but little over three centuries of evolution. At the beginning of the seventeenth century music was almost entirely choral. The small groups of instruments that were got together in 1600 to support the voices in the first experiments in opera at Florence, described in Chapter III, were not only defective in mechanical construction, but had to be written for in a style really better suited to voices, for the simple reason that that was the only style that had been so far developed. Violins were not yet perfected, their

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*
For details of the instruments that make up the orchestra, their peculiarities of construction, their appearance, their arrangement on the stage, and their function in the music, the reader may be referred to The Orchestral Instruments and What They Do, by Daniel Gregory Mason .
See the section in Chapter IV on "The Emergence of Instrumental Style."

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