Singing the Praises of Strings

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

The Epoch Times continues to impress me with its unique blend of sober reality, hopeful resilience, and guileless attention to all that is delightful and vibrant in the world.

A case in point is this fascinating piece, explaining a feature of orchestral music that, as a rank amateur, I had vaguely noted, but could never have accounted for.

The question is why such works, no matter what their theme or mood, are dominated by strings.

It turns out that the ubiquity of strings has many things going for it. For example, “The strings can play almost endlessly, because their players’ lungs or lips do not wear out from constant breathing and blowing.”

I would note, however, that strings do on occasion snap. Nothing is perfect this side of heaven!

Returning to their virtues, the various strings cover a range of octaves almost as wide as that of the piano-forte, and so “can pass off a melody from high to low, sounding seamlessly like one instrument, while such a figure passed from flute down to oboe to clarinet and bassoon would reveal a distinct change of tone color with each.”

Another technique I have noticed and relished, but could not have named, is “homogenous orchestration,” in which parts are “played together by strings and a woodwind and a brass instrument blending in unison.”

One of my favorite musical genres is the concerto, which features a solo instrument playing back and forth with the full orchestra. In effect, for reasons that are now clear, that often means an elaborate interchange between the star of the show, and the strings.

One of the great masters of this art form is Joseph Haydn. As evidence, consider his Piano Concerto No. 11 in D major, performed here by Mikhail Pletnev and Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen:

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