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16:30 - 17:30

Sean Rafferty presents a selection of music and guests from the arts world.

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Music Genres
A Symphony Orchestra
The origins of the orchestra lie in the consorts of instruments attached to Renaissance courts, which could be augmented for special occasions. The exact size and make-up of such ensembles could vary widely. The so-called 24 Violons du Roi was established at the court of Louis XIII in 1626: its line-up of 6 violins, 12 violas and 6 cellos was imitated elsewhere.

  • During the late Baroque period such institutions were frequently met with in the larger and smaller German courts. By then certain wind instruments (notably oboes and bassoons) were regularly added, with trumpets and drums brought in for special occasions. It was for such ensembles that Johann Sebastian Bach wrote his orchestral suites and later Joseph Haydn his first symphonies .
  • With the growth of public concerts in major centres during the Classical period the standard make-up of the orchestra (to which horns and clarinets were now added) was regularised. It was for ensembles of this size that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , the mature Haydn and the young Ludwig van Beethoven wrote their symphonies.
  • The history of the orchestra during the Romantic period was one of ever-increasing expansion.
  • To the symphony -- which itself expanded in size during the period -- were added the forms of the concert overture and the symphonic poem or tone poem .
  • The suite -- made up of a series of smaller, characteristic movements -- was also revived.
  • Some sort of climacteric was reached around the year 1900 with the enormous forces required by the tone-poems of Richard Strauss and the symphonies of Gustav Mahler , with their vast bodies of strings, multiple woodwind and brass and substantial percussion sections.
  • During the modern period the orchestra tended to fragment somewhat, with composers of a neo-classical tendency adopting smaller forces whilst others seemed to prefer percussion, woodwind and brass to the lusher sound of strings. Many other composers and audience members, however, continued to prefer the traditional orchestra, if constituted on more modest lines than those that had marked the grandest ambitions of the late-Romantic school.

Guide to Classical Music
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