The Historical Roots of Orchestras
The origin of the modern orchestras was an ancient civilization known today as the country of Egypt. The early orchestras were composed of small groups of musicians that play for religious festivals, funerals and other special gatherings. It was only during the 11th century that families of instruments with different tones and octaves started to appear and used by groups.
Formal Beginning of Orchestras
It was in the 16th century when composers formally started creating music for instrumental groups. The nobles in Italian society used the services of musicians to provide music for dancing in households and the courts. When theater arts emerged in the 17th century, (especially opera which originated in Italy) orchestras became in demand while more and more compositions were created.
During the mid of the 17th century known as the Baroque Period, there were already musicians that were starting to learn skills in using musical instruments and the forms of musical instruments started to improve. Claudio Monteverdi (a talented singer/writer/composer) was the first to choose which instruments are to be played in his operas. He penned the earliest operas in Italy which is still being performed today.
The Rise 0f String Instruments
The Baroque period gave rise to the family of string instruments. The Viola was the most popular, but it sounded inappropriate for dancing and playing in big groups. Therefore, instrument makers were keen enough to find the right sound from higher quality string instruments to control the versatility of the Viola. Meanwhile, brass and woodwind instruments were also developed, and added in playing for operas and other theater performances though they were subordinate to string instruments.
Different Kinds of Instruments Played in Harmony
Later in the 18th century, groups of musicians were playing like the orchestras today. The classical orchestra was slowly developed and became standard through the work of the finest and best composer at that time - Mozart. The standard orchestra meant musicians played pairs of flute, clarinets, trumpets, horns, kettledrums, oboes and bassoons in addition to string instruments. The use of woodwind instruments added harmony to the entire orchestra.
Beethoven in the 19th Century
The work of Beethoven started in the 19th century when he made the brass prominent. The trumpet and horn became completely chromatic. The trombone became a regular instrument played. The horn section increased to four. The tuba was added which provided a nice contrabass to the brass which was not there previously. The woodwind instruments went through dramatic changes in the 19th century, which improved their technical and mechanical capabilities.
Orchestras in the 20th Century
The orchestra has been through a lot of improvements and variations in the 20th century considering line-up, purpose and constitution. The name orchestra has been adapted by different kinds of ensemble instead of calling a group of musicians as band. But, there is a definite and unique characteristic of an orchestra - the large number of sting instruments in an ensemble.
Today orchestras play for films, concerts, operas, and TV with a range of styles. Orchestras have gone a long way with new instruments and varied playing styles. Music would never be the same with today’s most popular orchestras in the world including London Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Columbus Symphony Orchestra among others.