So Where Are the Violins?
By Peter Boor, Music Director
Originally printed in the Between the Lines newsletter in the Fall of 1988.
WHAT’S A SYMPHONY WITHOUT VIOLINS?...It’s a tradition over a hundred years old…that’s what! And that’s what the Hanover Wind Symphony is…a concert wind ensemble following that tradition; performing transcriptions written for the concert band, works by modern composers, and music from American Musical Theater. All this without even one violin.
Wind bands and variously sized ensembles of wind instruments have existed as a musical performing medium since the 16th century. The world’s most renown composers, including Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Gabrielli and continuing to the masters of our generation, Holst, Vaughn Williams, Copland, Bernstein, Grainger, and Sousa have written their music for diverse combinations of wind instruments.
During the mid-19th century wind instruments, which until that time had been rather crude, were refined through the genius of Adolph Sax, his colleagues and competitors. These inventors were responsible for the creation and refinement of many new families of wind instruments, each of which contributed new tonal colors. During the first half of the 20th century, the wind band grew to symphonic proportions, vying in size with the symphony orchestra. American educators and educational institutions were at the forefront in the development of the wind band movement. Believing that performance was at the heart of each person’s musical development and since many students desired this experience, university ensembles numbers in excess of 120 players.
Then in 1952 Frederick Fennell, a young percussion instructor the Eastman School of Music, inaugurated a daring new concept in wind performance. Limiting the number of players to no more than two and often only one on each part, and using as his model the wind section of the symphony orchestra, he created the Wind Ensemble. This concept was quickly accepted and adopted throughout the educational and musical community. During the past 36 years this too has been modified, based on need, and has come to represent the best in wind instrument performance. Slightly larger than originally conceived, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble or Wind Symphony is the contemporary standard of excellence in both amateur and educational wind music performance.
So the next time you’re at a concert listening to your favorite composers Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and you don’t see the violins…relax and enjoy, you may be listening to the Hanover Wind Symphony!