Mahler Sym #2, EMI-Klemperer, Orchestra seating question
Dec 1, 2008 at 9:32 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 17

LarryS

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I have one copy (I know, neophyte
smily_headphones1.gif
) of Mahler's #2 on EMI with Klemperer conducting the Philharmonia, and something drives me to distraction every time I listen to it.

In contravention to what I usually hear, the first violins appear to be seated on the right side of the orchestra (right headphone channel), and the bass strings on the left side of the orchestra.

Is there something unique to the Philharmonia seating arrangement, or did I happen to get a CD with the left & right channels reversed?

It just sounds so unusual to hear the strings with this seating, and it sometimes makes it difficult for me to relax and enjoy the music.

Can anyone shed any light on this?

Thanks!
 
Dec 2, 2008 at 1:14 AM Post #2 of 17

calaf

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listening to the samples on amazon
Amazon.com: Mahler: Symphony No. 2 / Klemperer, Philharmonia Orchestra: Gustav Mahler, Otto Klemperer, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Hilde Rossl-Majdan, Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus: Music
I have the impression that Klemperer used a layout like this one
110902CVDsm.jpg


AFAIK (not much) Mahler should be played with the traditional "violins on the left" arrangement. In the end the orchestral positions are an artistic (or sometimes pragmatic) choice of the conductor. See e.g. this link about the Philarmonia
Seating Plans
from which the above image is taken.
 
Dec 2, 2008 at 2:07 AM Post #3 of 17

LarryS

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Thank you! I had looked on the Philharmonia's website, but with less success than you.

The seating arrangement could also be that arrangement which is just beneath the one you presented:

120902CVDsm.jpg


I remember hearing a harp on the left.

Now I'm going to go have to find another Mahler's #2 for comparison!

600smile.gif
 
Dec 2, 2008 at 5:54 AM Post #4 of 17

calaf

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Quote:

Originally Posted by LarryS /img/forum/go_quote.gif

Now I'm going to go have to find another Mahler's #2 for comparison!

600smile.gif



the MTT/SFSO and the Bertini/Kolner that I am listening to right now both have the traditional strings layout.
 
Dec 2, 2008 at 2:58 PM Post #5 of 17

Bunnyears

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Are you sure it's the first violins on the right? Usually the older "German seating" of the violins (antiphonal) has the 2nd violins to the right of the conductor, but the first violins are (still) to the left.

Here is a diagram that shows the various seating plans for orchestras with the German seating (old) on top, the American seating in the middle, and a variation of the American seating with the violas across from first violins instead of the cellos.

Klemp would have used the German seating as would have Mahler.

orchaufst.jpg


A little more research has revealed that the older German seating plan was traditional until after World War 2, at which point the American seating plan with the 1st and 2nd violins massed became more common.
 
Dec 2, 2008 at 3:20 PM Post #6 of 17

Bunnyears

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There is also the Furtwängler variation on the German seating where the violas and cellos trade places. These variations in seating are used to emphasize the various melody lines in the music and to give greater transparency to the orchestra.
 
Dec 2, 2008 at 7:29 PM Post #7 of 17

LarryS

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Bunnyears /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Are you sure it's the first violins on the right?


I very well may have mixed up the 1st and 2nd violins
smily_headphones1.gif


Now that I have a few seating arrangements to look at, when I get some critical listening time, I'll see if I can identify which seating Klemperer used.

I knew that orchestra layouts could be shifted, but not to the extent of moving those bass viols over to the left side
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Dec 2, 2008 at 7:34 PM Post #8 of 17

calaf

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Bunnyears /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Are you sure it's the first violins on the right? Usually the older "German seating" of the violins (antiphonal) has the 2nd violins to the right of the conductor, but the first violins are (still) to the left.


Here's one sample
Amazon.com: Symphony No.2 in C minor ("Resurrection") (2000 Digital Remaster): III. In ruhig fliessender Bewegung: MP3 Downloads: Otto Klemperer/Philharmonia Orchestra/Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
where you can hear the violins in antiphone. Without a score it's hard to tell which group is which.

BTW thanks for the instructive post (as usual...)
 
Dec 2, 2008 at 11:55 PM Post #9 of 17

Bunnyears

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Quote:

Originally Posted by calaf /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Here's one sample
Amazon.com: Symphony No.2 in C minor ("Resurrection") (2000 Digital Remaster): III. In ruhig fliessender Bewegung: MP3 Downloads: Otto Klemperer/Philharmonia Orchestra/Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
where you can hear the violins in antiphone. Without a score it's hard to tell which group is which.

BTW thanks for the instructive post (as usual...)



I have the Klemp M2 (it's here somewhere...), but thanks anyway for the clips. The problem is that I don't have a score handy and without it I couldn't say which violins are on the left or right. I assume that the 2nd violins are on the right because that is/was common practice with antiphonal (German) seating. I see now that the OP just heard some violin lines in the right phone, and assumed that the 1st violins were the ones on the right.

I'm pretty sure that Klemp wasn't going to use a variation on the seating of his own making just for this particular symphony, no matter what Furtwängler did when he conducted Beethoven.

Quote:

Originally Posted by calaf /img/forum/go_quote.gif
the MTT/SFSO and the Bertini/Kolner that I am listening to right now both have the traditional strings layout.


Are you sure of this? The last time I saw MTT conduct Mahler (M7) the violins were split antiphonally, not massed. Ivan Fischer also used the German seating as well for his concert of the M1 I saw as well as for his recording with the Budapest Festival Orchestra of the M2. I also believe the Slatkin divides the violins as well, if my memory serves me correctly (the finale of the M2 with the Nashville Symphony was broadcast on PBS a while ago and I remember noticing the violins).

I'll have to dig out the Bertini and see if I can hear violins in the right headphone, but that's for another day.
wink.gif
 
Dec 3, 2008 at 2:59 AM Post #10 of 17

mbhaub

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I checked with the score:

Violin 1 to the left, Violin 2 to the right. Antiphonal just like it used to be and still should be! Modern orchestras that put both on the left mess up a lot of music. Hearing Brahms and Tchaikovsky with split violins is thrilling.
Continuing...

Basses are on the left.
Trombones and trumpets on the right.
Winds exactly where I expect them - centered. (that's a doozy of a bassoon flub near the beginning!)
Horns move! Sometimes they come from left of center, sometimes from right, and near the end of the first movement from the left! It is a very large horn section, 10 players, but it sure doesn't encompass the entire orchestra. Only four are onstage. Tricky little engineers!
Harps to the strong left.
Timpani on the right or center depending on whose playing since there are two players in the first movement, up to 4 (!) in the last.
 
Dec 3, 2008 at 4:33 AM Post #11 of 17

LarryS

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Thanks to everyone for all the input! It was certainly educational, and I now suppose that the Klemperer layout may be closer to the layout that Mahler would have preferred, rather than the modern seating arrangement I am accustomed to.

I suppose I will have to keep listening and expanding on my classical inventory!
 
Dec 3, 2008 at 4:41 AM Post #12 of 17

Bunnyears

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Quote:

Originally Posted by mbhaub /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I checked with the score:

Violin 1 to the left, Violin 2 to the right. Antiphonal just like it used to be and still should be! Modern orchestras that put both on the left mess up a lot of music. Hearing Brahms and Tchaikovsky with split violins is thrilling.
Continuing...

Basses are on the left.
Trombones and trumpets on the right.
Winds exactly where I expect them - centered. (that's a doozy of a bassoon flub near the beginning!)
Horns move! Sometimes they come from left of center, sometimes from right, and near the end of the first movement from the left! It is a very large horn section, 10 players, but it sure doesn't encompass the entire orchestra. Only four are onstage. Tricky little engineers!
Harps to the strong left.
Timpani on the right or center depending on whose playing since there are two players in the first movement, up to 4 (!) in the last.



I wonder if Bernstein split the violins of the NYPO for his recordings. I know that's the way Mahler would have done it, but after WW2 it became uncommon for the the violins to be split in American orchestras.
 
Dec 4, 2008 at 3:23 AM Post #13 of 17

mbhaub

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You're right, his first Sony set uses normal modern sitting: both violins on the left, basses to the right with celli in front. Violas to right. Those older recordings can be tricky to hear the stereo field accurately.
 
Dec 4, 2008 at 3:30 PM Post #14 of 17

Bunnyears

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Quote:

Originally Posted by mbhaub /img/forum/go_quote.gif
You're right, his first Sony set uses normal modern sitting: both violins on the left, basses to the right with celli in front. Violas to right. Those older recordings can be tricky to hear the stereo field accurately.


Good to know that you've come to the same conclusion.
biggrin.gif


I listened last night and was pretty sure that the violins were massed together but just didn't feel 100% sure. I also believe that they were recorded with 2 to 4 microphones and tracked for 3 or 4 speakers (remember quadrophonic sound?) and then down-mixed to two tracks which makes it even harder to hear where the violins are.

What I did realize was that the sound quality of the set is very, very dated when compared to newer recordings in SACD like Ivan Fischer's, Oue's, Eschenbach's, and MTT's orchestral recordings. You just don't hear as much and what you hear doesn't sound as good. However, the musical complexity that comes through in the newer recordings might also be the result of the reversion to German seating for Mahler just about everywhere.

Btw, I think that Wyn Morris was one of the first postwar conductors to split the violins, which is apparent when you listen to his recordings of Mahler.
 
Dec 5, 2008 at 10:29 PM Post #15 of 17

mbhaub

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Now there's a name that has been largely forgotten. I sent an editorial comment to Gramophone this month after reading their Mahler 8 run down. Morris's wasn't listed, probably because it hasn't appeared on cd and that's a shame. I wish someone would put all of his Mahler together in a box set. His 8th was superb. Powerful and exciting. Better sound than Solti, too.
 

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