Where should we put the violins?

A debate over how to place orchestras’ string sections heats up the classical music world, according to this article which I came across. It’s an issue I’ve often wondered about, sometimes coming to the fore when visiting orchestras make their appearance in the Concert Hall and sit differently to what we’re used to with the NSOI.

What’s the biggest issue facing classical music? It’s not what kind of music to play. It’s whether your orchestra conductor divides the violins.

Symphony orchestras have two separate violin sections, and there are two ways to seat them: all the violins on the conductor’s left, or “divided,” with the first violins on the left and second violins on the right. This is becoming a big issue for music fans and critics: after conductor Leonard Slatkin was appointed music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, he wrote a piece for the website classicalsource.com responding to “music journalists” who complain about his refusal to divide the violins, explaining that while he has used the setup elsewhere, forcing the Detroit violinists to sit apart from each other “would remove one of the strongest individual qualities of the group.” A simple seating arrangement has become one of the first things conductors think about — because this small choice can have a big effect on music.

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