WHERE SHOULD THE VIOLAS GO?
The Cleveland Plain Dealer has a really great article about one of the simplest things about seeing orchestras - their seating arrangement. I have always noticed where the various groups of the orchestra are placed, and am quite accustomed to the arrangement above, especially in the strings. Violins on the left, violas in the middle to the right, and cellos to the extreme right. But recently, the chairs have been moving around. Various conductors are showing their command of the orchestra by literally placing people in specific locations. It supposedly changes the sound coming from the orchestra, and it makes sense in many ways.
Jane Glover, conductor of the Music of the Baroque, places her four violas on the front, right, with the three cellos inset and the violins on the left. The French horns were on the extreme left, together with the trumpets. Thr trombones were placed with the double basses, on the far right. Woodwinds occupied the middle in their standard positions, from left to right - flutes, clarinets, oboes, bassoons, contrabassoon. The sound seemed perfect to me. Every instrument was discernable and clear. They could have used some more violas to bring out the middle.
The CSO uses risers for their orchestra. On many occassions, the second violins are on the right, with violas and cellos in the middle. The brass, exluding the horns, are seated far back from the rest of the ensemble. Needless to say, that sound is going to be different, with a particular prominence to the brass, CSO's strong suit. The combinations are endless.
If I had an orchestra, I would place the violins......