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9 Decoding and Marking Orchestral Parts 9.23 Divisi: Which Part Should I Play?

493

Part 9
Decoding and Marking Orchestral Parts
A Manual of Orchestral Notation and Performance Practice
9.23 Which Part Should I Play? Strategies for Dividing the Violins
Tables 11.4a and 11.5: solo passages for various positions
Wulfhorst 2013, Ch. 15: foreign terms and abbreviations
Del Mar 1983, 3644
Some issues regarding the division of the violins in an orchestra
concern primarily concertmasters, principals, and conductors.
But all players should read this downloadable chapter in its entirety
so that they understand the principles, know how to mark their
parts, and can ask appropriate questions.
Section size Note that it takes ten players to double the
loudness of one ( Beament 1997, 154). The main benefit of a
larger section is a smoother, more homogeneous sound quality;
the main drawback, however, is the difficulty of achieving perfect
rhythmic precision and clear articulation.
Today the the second-violin section is generally the same size
as the first-violin section, minus one stand (or, more rarely, minus
one player). In medium to large halls and opera houses, seating
audiences between 800 and 2000, the common ratio between first
and second violins is as follows:
18/16 (18 firsts and 16 seconds) for Bruckner and Mahler
16/14 for most symphonic repertoire of the 19th and 20th
centuries, as well as for the operas of Wagner and Strauss
14/12 for 19th- and 20th-century concerto accompaniments,
for most 19th-century operas, and for oratorios with large
choirs
12/10 or 10/8 for Classical symphonies, Classical concerto accompaniments, Classical operas, bel canto operas, and oratorios with small or medium-sized choirs.
Common chamber-orchestra ratios are: 8/7, 8/6, 7/6, 6/5, 5/4,
4/3 and 3/3.
Some repertoire requires non-standard section divisions:
For Baroque and Classical repertoire, some period-instrument
specialists have returned to the 18th- and 19th-century tradition of same-sized first- and second-violin sections. Some
works by Berlioz, Wagner, Debussy, and Strauss explicitly require this.
Pieces in Viennese waltz style sound best if one moves one
stand from the seconds to the firsts (16/10 instead of 14/12, or
14/8 instead of 12/10): in this music the seconds merely provide the accompaniment, and the firsts often play the melody
divisi in thirds or octaves.

In Strausss, Aus Italien/iii, Zarathustra, or Salome, each of the


two violin sections is subdivided into groups A (usually the
four front stands) and B (the four back stands).
In the Pifa from Handels Messiah, Wagners Siegfried I/3,
Strausss Josephslegende and Elektra, Shostakovichs Symphony
5/iii, and Brittens Dream III the two violin sections are temporarily or permanently divided into three equal groups. Bartks Music has four violin parts.
Faurs Requiem, Stravinskys Capriccio, Weills Mahagonny
and Symphony 1, Schoecks Horn Concerto, and a few other
pieces feature only a single violin part.
Bachs St. Matthew Passion, J. C. Bachs Double Symphonies,
and some works by Bantock, Martin, Tippett, and Vaughan
Williams use two full string orchestras, situated against each
other.
In numerous 20th-century pieces, each stand or player performs from a separate part. Strausss Metamorphoses, for instance, require ten solo violins.
There are even a few notorious pieces without any violins: Brahmss Serenade no. 2, Hindemiths Schwanendreher,
Stravinskys Symphony of Psalms, Honeggers Roi David, Dutilleuxs Timbres.
For any non-standard division, the principal players, together
with the conductor, must develop strategies for the assignment
of parts and, if necessary, for seating; these must be based on the
way the individual groups are used in the score, the strengths of
the players, and the acoustics of the hall (Ch. 8.12). For instance,
for the works or passages with with three violin parts listed above,
the parts should be assigned so that the musicians playing the
same part are sitting closely together:
Group I comprises the outside stands of the first violins.
Group II comprises the first two stands of the second violins
and the remaining stands of the firsts.
Group III comprises the remaining stands of the seconds, with
one of the principals positioned strategically.
Many operatic works include music played onstage or in the
wings; these passages are usually printed in separate parts, though
they may appear in the parts for the pit, too ( Table 11.5/D). The
concertmaster or conductor should assign one or more soloists, as
needed, and decide, in cooperation with the stage director, where
they should sit or stand or whether the music needs to be taped.

Martin Wulfhorst, The Orchestral Violinists Companion, 2012 (To order the book visit www.orch.info)

494

9 Decoding and Marking Orchestral Parts 9.23 Divisi: Which Part Should I Play?
label is especially helpful when an exposed passage follows a
loud or safer texture, as it does here (and in many other
examples in Parts 39).
In concertos the term solo indicates passages where the soloist
dominates. (In Dvoks Cello Concerto/iii 11 and 14 , however,
solo indicates a true solo for the concertmaster.) In solo passages
of 18th-century concertos, some period-instrument specialists
have revived the 18th-century practice of reducing the string section.
Modern examples of the same practice are found in Waltons concertos: the passages marked with hooks (
) should be played
with a reduced violin section.

Solo, soli, tutti In string parts, solos such as those listed in


Tables 11.4a11.5 are usually marked solo or soli (additional labels are listed in Wulfhorst 2012/14). Accompanying parts
for the remainder of the section are usually marked gli altri, die
brigen (the others), and so on. But be careful: the marking soli
can sometimes signal a prominent, exposed, or difficult passage
that should be played by the full ensemble:
a Even though this passage is marked soli by the composer
or editor, it should be played by the entire first-violin section.
The term indicates an important, exposed thematic statement.
b The term soli, added here by the players, indicates that the
tricky passage is exposed and every note will be heard. The

9-23a-h [2-16m March 11, 110%

Verdi
Ballo I/Prel.

Allegro assai moderato q = 63

# # # # c1
& #

strings, ww.
(strings: fugato)

2

n b j

w
bb b C ww
w
& bb @
@
a tempo

. .

J f i (3) The composer specifies which stands or players are


playing the parts:

( )

- . - - - - - .
- - .
F

bb b 2 w
& bb2

..

j ~~~

n
p

3
44
soli (to be doubled by the 2nd violins)

a tempo
Etwas ruhiger [q = 96]
4
Rit.
150
get.
zus.
The notation of divisib passages
Mahler
b 3have marked the beginning and end of
c Ideally, composers
Symphony 5/II/3 & 4
a passage for divided
violins with abbreviations
pizz.
arco such as div.
zart
and unis. or their German or French equivalents
(here
geteilt and zusammen). Check for omissions and misprints
of such markings and Rveusement
add them if theylent
are qmissing.
= 50
d
Composers may
indicate
section
divisions
in
various manners,
La moiti
1
leaving sometimes more
sometimes less freedom to the conb b b and
Debussy
cassignment
& bforb bthe
ductor and players
of parts:
Rhapsodie
vn. 2 specifies or implies the number of groups
d (1) The composer
Sourdine
into which the section should be split: div. a 2, prima met, 2.
Hlfte, etc. Players and conductor must decide whether here,
for instance, la moti
(half the
Rubato
[q =section)
ca. 100] refers to the outside
e
sur la touche
players, the inside
players,
the front stands, or the back stands
1
59 -2
3
of the section.
2
3
e

(2)
The
composer
specifies
the
number
of
stands
or
musicians
Debussy
& c part: 2 stands, uno leggio, 4 Spieler, 6 violons,
playing a certain
Ibria/iii
etc. You should assume that the stands or players are counted
from the front:
here
6 Soli
premiers violons soli can be assumed
6 1ers
Vons
expressif et un peu moqueur (= somewhat mocking)
to refer to the first three stands. Modify these directions if the
Plus
et trs expressif
[h = 54]
section size is smaller than
thecalme
one specified
by the composer
54 +5
f
(cf. p. 502).
c

Debussy
La mer/iii

. 1

n . . n . . # . . . . n . . ~~~
.. . .. . .
offassai piano
e stacc.
(Soli) 4

All.o agitato assai vivo [h = 80]


4
28

b
Verdi
Traviata II/7

4ta corda

f The first [= outside] players of all stands alone is a


more precise way of saying half the section. Wagner and
Mahler meant the same with the phrases erster Spieler
(Parsifal
I/m. 1) and alle 1. Spieler (Symphony 3/vi 4 ).
TOUS div.
g The third and fourth stands divide the two parts, either
by player or by stand.
h The numbering system is very precise. You will only need
to decide from the context whether the numbers refer to
stands or players, and then mark your part accordingly.
Given that the section size in this piece is sixteen players,
the numbers system surely refer toa the
stands.
Tempo
q = 112
i Given that the stipulated 4section
size
is sixteen play59
2
ers, the numbers must refer to the players. In Jeux Debussy chose a clearer format: 2e, 3e pupitre, etc., refers
to stands, and numbers without attribute (1., 2., etc.)
refer to players.

n.
n.
-

- . - - .
j
. . . . . .

..

21x

1ers de chaque pupitre Soli

Martin Wulfhorst,
Companion, 2012 (To order the book visit www.orch.info)
pizz.Orchestral
. # Violinists
# The
Debussy
Jeux

Scherzando q. = 72

#
& # 38

1 +8

3e et 4e Pup.

b b C ww
b
& bb @

Verdi
Traviata II/7


n b j

w
w
@

All.o agitato assai vivo [h = 80]


4
28

3
a tempo
44
9 Decoding and Marking Orchestral
9.23
Divisi:
Which Part Should I Play?
soliParts
(to be doubled
by the
2nd violins)

b
& b 43
pizz.

150

Mahler
Symphony 5/II/3

Debussy
Rhapsodie

get.

arco

bbbc
b
& bb w

La moiti

vn. 2
Sourdine

. .
J

zart

Rveusement lent q = 50

d
1

zus.

a tempo
4

Etwas ruhiger [q = 96]


Rit.

( 1 ) 2
3
- . - & c - - - - - . .
F
ers ons
Rubato [q = ca. 100]

sur la touche

59 -2

Debussy
Ibria/iii

61

Soli
expressif et un peu moqueur

bb b 2 w
& bb2

f
Debussy
La mer/iii

54 +5

(= somewhat mocking)

Plus calme et trs expressif [h = 54]

..

j ~~~

n
p

495

TOUS div. n .

n.
w
a Tempo = 112

2
4 59
- . - - .
j
. . . . . .

..

21x

1ers de chaque pupitre Soli

Debussy
Jeux

# .

Scherzando q. = 72

# # # 3 pizz. # .
& 8

1 +8

3e et 4e Pup.
DIV.

Ex. 9.23i
b b n
3 1.2.3.
Ravel, Piano
b
4.5.6.
&
4
[7.8. b
Concerto/ii
stands
h

Adagio assai e = 76
4 +3

div. en 3

## #
r
& # # # 42 .
1.2.3.
4.5.6.
players p
# # # # # 2 . r
& # 4 7.8.9.

En serrant [e = 92+]

Debussy
Ibria/ii

45 +3

10.11.12.

p
UNIS.

..

Martin Wulfhorst, The Orchestral Violinists Companion, 2012 (To order the book visit www.orch.info)

496

9 Decoding and Marking Orchestral Parts 9.23 Divisi: Which Part Should I Play?

Marking divisi passages The notational system in h with


numbers indicating the standsis the most precise and practical
way of marking the assignment of complex divisi passages with
three and more parts. (See the model page from Debussys Jeux
at http://www.orch.info/parts.) Where necessary add a Roman
number designating the individual players to the number of the
standfor example, 3/I for the outside player of the third stand,
and 3/II for the inside player. The alternative is to assign a number
to each player. In simple divisions in three or in four, however, it
will suffice to add div. by person or div. by stand.
When you mark divisi passages check them carefully for errors,
misprints, oversights, and inconsistencies, which are among the
most common mistakes in printed parts and scores.
j Berlioz notated mm. 117 as div. a 3 on three staves, but
in mm. 7 and 17 he composed only two parts, assigning the
top notes to the top two staves and the bottom notes to the
third. In this case, consider switching from div. a 3 to div. a 2,
as composers of later generations would have required. (The
E b in m. 6, which Berlioz seems to have avoided for technical
reasons, has also been added for consistency.)

k Because of differences in system breaks, often there is a discrepancy in the divisi indications of the parts and those of
the full score. As a result, switches from one divisi system to
another in the middle of a staff in the full score are indicated
incorrectly in the parts, if at all. Because conductors normally
do not check the parts, the player must notice and correct
such mistakes. In the full score for this passage, all first-violin
parts are printed on a single staff, and it is clear from the print
that the switch from div. a 4 to div. a 2 occurs in m. 17.
l But in the first-violin part, a new staff begins in m. 20, and
the printing gives the wrong impression that the switch from
div. a 4 to div. a 2 occurs here. If this is not corrected, some
players might be forced to perform needless, awkward skips
at the staff break. It is best to cross out the second and fourth
staves in mm. 1719 and to insert a div. a 2 marking at m.
17 and arrows for those players who need to switch staves (cf.
Debussy, Jeux 38 +6). Another typical problem shown here is
that dynamic signs are only printed between staves 12 and
34. If you are playing the second or fourth parts you might
want to add the dynamics.

9.23j [2-16m Apr.07, 110%

b b 3 b pizz.

J
& c ~~~~
6
6
f
3
b b 4 3
# n pizz.
~~~~
c
&
J
6
6
f
3
2
# n 3 b n pizz.

& c ~~~
J
6
6
f
j

Berlioz, Symphonie
fantastique/v

divisi a 3
con sord

Larghetto q = 63
3

b
b
f


f
div. a 2

S p

arco

S p

arco

arco

S p

Martin Wulfhorst, The Orchestral Violinists Companion, 2012 (To order the book visit www.orch.info)

9.23k Deb. Rondes 110 %


9 Decoding and Marking Orchestral Parts 9.23 Divisi: Which Part Should I Play?

- - - k

@
16
b b b n b @ n n
4
& 4 @ b@
p cresc.
DIV. 4

- -
prs du chevalet
@
@

b n b b b .. n b

@ @

Sf

- 16
@
& 44
p cresc.
trem.
b - 4
@
&4
p
b - b 4
@
&4
p cresc.
trem.

- @ @

Modrment anim q = 96

Debussy
Rondes,
full score

497

En retenant

b @ 20 arco b @ pizz.
b b
p
b .
b .
p
3

sur la touche pizz.

9.23 l Deb. Rondes 110 %: Bitte unbedingt den Umbruch behalten: SEHR WICHTIG
l

Debussy
Rondes,
violin part

DIV. 4

4
&4
p

&

20

DIV. 2

&

p
arco
b

b
p
arco

b - @

Modrment anim q = 96

n - n
@

- @ @

- n @

b - @ @

- b - @ @

- @ @

@
@

b.

prs du chevalet

b prs. du chevalet

b prs
. du chevalet

b prs
. du chevalet

Sf
b

Sf
n

En retenant

sur la touche

uh

sur la touche

sur la touche

b
p

sur la touche

pizz.

pizz.

b .

Martin Wulfhorst, The Orchestral Violinists Companion, 2012 (To order the book visit www.orch.info)

@
@

pizz.

pizz.

pizz.

b .

pizz.

b .

498

9 Decoding and Marking Orchestral Parts 9.23 Divisi: Which Part Should I Play?

m In the full score the engraver used two staves for divisi
n /34445 Use arrows pointing up or down to show where you
schemes a 2 in m. 341, a 3 in m. 343, and a 4 in m. 345.
must switch staves, as shown here for the third stand.
n But in the part, the two lines in mm. 34142 are distributed
n /352 Use the standard symbol @ to separate a system of mulincorrectly over three staves. Correct this by reassigning each
tiple staves from a single staff with undivided parts, and/or
of the two lines in these measures to four stands, in the manmark the single staff with two slashes or arrows. Both methner shown here (details below).
ods are shown here.
o Use parentheses for passages that you do not play but are
Add driving directions that will help you find your part easily
still notated on your staff. (Do this especially for solos of the
and quickly:
n Add two short slashes, lines, or arrows to the left of the staff
principals or other players.)
to mark your part and that of your9.23
stand
shown div. Zem dec 09: 110%
l partner,
[2-16masApr.07
here for the third stand.

Sehr gedehnt


& b 43

3
&b 4

341

Zemlinsky
Mermaid/ii,
full score

24

m. Dpf.

.
#

6
#
8

n.
n .
# n .

get.

68

9.23n Dec.
2011

24

Sehr gedehnt [q = 56]

341 1.5.6.

div. a 3
m. Dpf.

1 in 6

2 3

Nb.: The slashes and arrow show the markings for the 7th stand.

9-23

&
pizz. + hp.

352 4 Pulte

Puccini
Butterfly II/ii

~~~

con sordina

J .

..

6
8

div. a 4

68

4.8.

n.

J .

J .

n 3 .
3.7.

68

2 senza sordina
poco accel.
1
b

( F dolce
cresc.

b 2 b b b

f
II
senza sord. rall.

Tutti

con passione

Martin Wulfhorst, The Orchestral Violinists Companion, 2012 (To order the book visit www.orch.info)
Pi animato [h = 80]

2.6.

68

Frheres
Zeitma, nur miger [q. = 72]
3
1.5.

o And.te sostenuto q = 56
14
1.o Solo
3 come eco

&c

.
.

Frheres Zeitma, nur miger

#
1.5.6. # # #
3
&b 4
3 4

stand 6:
div. a 2!!
m. Dpf. div. a 3
2.
4.8.
# # #
3

b
& 4

2.3.7.
3.4.7.8. m. Dpf.
n .
1 #

3
&b 4

Zemlinsky
Mermaid/ii,
violin part

m. Dpf.

4
4

9 Decoding and Marking Orchestral Parts 9.23 Divisi: Which Part Should I Play?

499

Double stops and chords: to divide or not to divide?


p When a composer wants strings to play double stops or
chords, he or she adds symbols such as or , or writes non
divisi, unis., zus., or Doppelgriff.
Most likely, during the Baroque9-23
and Classical periods orchestral
players did not divide double stops and chords. 19th-Century
string players continued this practice, though the stronger hair
352 4 bow
Pulte made it more difficult to play chords.
tension of the Tourte
Even Wagner and his contemporaries obviously still expected
players to follow this tradition except where they explicitly inpizz. + hp.
dicated div. (Otherwise
they would not have taken such care to
avoid writing double stops and chords that a violinist could not
play easily.)
Today we find a mixed practice, different from orchestra to
te sostenuto
q = 56 If you are in doubt,
orchestra and from
conductor
to conductor.
o And.
sordina
2 senza
ask. Dividing 14
usually 3results
in a more
sound quality
1.ocontrolled
Solo
come eco
and
higher rhythmic precision, and it should be applied wherever
Puccini
II/ii sound or a very clear attack are required. Not dividaButterfly
very smooth
ing generates a fuller sound
and greater energy. The
HIP movecon sordina
dolce
ment has given new life to this older practice of not dividing (
Barschai 1996, Lamprecht 2000).

&b

&c

bb b 2
& b 4

200 K +17

Haydn
Symphony 73/iv

Mozart
Symphony 35/i

ggg
gg

##

& C ww
vn. 1+2

2
Dividing double stops
and chords

#
& # c J
J

b b b b

Haydn
Symphony 103/ii

s
Mozart
Ov. Figaro

&

Presto [w = 69]

## c

12/29

r
~~~
'
'

..

j
j
j

J
di .
J
v

2
&4
J
J
J

196

Presto [h. = 72]


2

Allegro con spirito [h = 80]


0
0
2

q Andante pi tosto Allegretto

.
174
## 6 . .

& 8
.
f
Z
r

n
( F

Pi animato [h = 80]

Dvok, Slavonic
Dance 3

~~~

Unfortunately, 18th-century writers were silent on the issue of


whether the unavoidable arpeggiation of non-divisi chords should
begin on or before the beat and how the chords should be spread.
Modern writers can do no more than provide rough guidelines:
In Baroque music, where harmonic considerations rule, the players priorities should be focused on the bass line, with the bottom
note as the strongest point in the chord, usually played on the
beat. The other notes of the chord may be spread in a variety of
ways according to the context, speed of the music, or consideration of the other parts....There is no rule which notes should be
sounded together ( Tarling 2000, 149). In Classical and Romantic orchestral music, by contrast, the focus shifted to the top
note. This requires a very quick arpeggio that starts just before the
beat and ends with the top note on the beat.
II
rall.any distinction
sord.
q t poco
We
do not know whether senza
players
made
accel.
Tutti
2
between
1 the four notational forms found in 18th-century
music and some 19th-century music, nor do we know how
they performed them.
u w cresc.
If you divide three-part chords, however, avoid dividing
con passione
them in a manner so that both players double the middle part.

[q = 100]

j
j
j

J
di .
J

n . b n . b
5

.
#
Elgar

~~~~
&The43 Orchestral
Martin
Wulfhorst,
Violinists Companion, 2012 (To order the book visit www.orch.info)
Enigma Var./xiii
.
di .
oderato q = 76 2

500

9 Decoding and Marking Orchestral Parts 9.23 Divisi: Which Part Should I Play?

signed to the back standsfor instance, the tremolo in x or


Assigning two divisi parts No matter how a division into
two parts is marked, consider various options fo assigning lines:
the pizzicato in Ex. 7.2s. In Bergs Violin Concerto/ii/175, 1.
d /5 Dividing between outside and inside players is the standard
Met should comprise the first three stands so that the gradual expansion and reduction of the volume has a spatial quality.
method, assumed to apply unless you are instructed otherwise.
aa Dividing between unequal blocks of stands is preferable if one
x z Dividing between equal blocks of stands or players is
preferable
of the two parts should dominate ( Woss 1983, 6).
x if a melody and an accompaniment (or two melodies) are
bb Dividing according to other systems: Here the chords sound
juxtaposed (this system should be designed so that the stands
best if the outside players take the middle, moving part and
who sit close to each other play the same part)
the inside players take the ostinato octaves as double stops.
y z , d /14 if only half the section plays:
Ex.: Debussy, Rondes 16 +3 The marking 1 par pupitre on
both staves only makes sense if one follows Debussys ap2 y the front halfu plays in passages that require a tight en-v
to the conductor, as in this tricky
parent intention to have the two staves generally divided by
2 semble and close contact
v
Dividing
double stops u
transition
stand. Here, only the outside players are playing. But having
and
chords
Dividing
z , ddouble
/14 stops
the back half plays passages where the sound
the first four stands divide the two parts between them by
di .
andmust
chordsbe less direct or must explicitly come from a distance. di .
player instead makes for a tighter ensemble.
di .
Similarly, in passages with two parts, the part that needs less di .
acoustic presence or less rhythmic definition should be asoderato q = 76 2
oderato q = 76 2
5

#
& # ## c
& c

J
J

# 53 .
& # 43 .
&di 4.
di .

Elgar
Enigma
Elgar Var./xiii
Enigma Var./xiii

j
j
j
# j
#

# Jj # j
J J J
J
J

b n b
n

. b n . b

.
.

j j
# j >j
f
#
>

- mune; nostra patria

&c
&c

Genova

33 +32

&b 2
b2
&mmer

255

Mahler
Symphony
3/I/i
Mahler
Symphony 3/I/i

ie aus

mmer ie aus

Concerto/v

Ravel, Piano
Concerto/i
Ravel, Piano
Concerto/i

# #
# #

( )
( )#
#

pizz.
p
p

Allegramente h = 116 di .
1 h = 116 pizz.
Allegramente
di .

#2
1& 2
#2
& 2
1

b b .
. b b .
. met sola dei primi

met sola dei primi

eiter erne
.
sempre
eiter erne
sempre

n poco meno mosso q = 122


arco
n poco meno mosso q = 122

farco
# 277 2 f
& 42 #
& dipizz.
4 . #p
di .
pizz. p
aa

277
aa

Genova

All.o agitato q = 1
1 o agitato q = 1
All.
1

nmer lic et as e egter [q = 120]


l te
nmer
lic et as e egter
[q = 120]
21
3
ie
l te
2
21
3
2
ie

255

Bartk
Concerto/v
Bartk

n >
n >

- mune; nostra patria

Simon I/6

All.o mod.o q = 88
33 +32
o mod.o q = 88
All.

Verdi
Simon
Verdi I/6

j
j


J
J

.
.

. . . .
.
. . .

. .
. # j .
# # j
# # #

3
3

3
3

N
N

j
j
j

j j j
J #

J
J
J
J
J

~~~~
~~~~

( 0 2) 1 3
. (0 .2) n 1 3 b . n .
. . n b . n .
h
h
iolini
iolini

4
4

. b . . j ~~~~
. b . . . . . .j ~~~~
. . . .

. . . .
j
j
# . j . .# j .
# #

. . >>
j

n . j . # ## ~~~
n # ~~~

N
N

Martin Wulfhorst, The Orchestral Violinists Companion, 2012 (To order the book visit www.orch.info)
ger et antasque q = 126

4 q = 126
15ger
+7 et antasque
1er et 2e P.

>
f

>

met

sola dei primi iolini

nmer lic et as e egter [q = 120]


l te
9 Decoding and Marking
Orchestral
Parts 219.23 Divisi: Which Part Should I Play?
255
3

22
Mahler
. theb .more. rhythmic
that. plays
jtothe~~~~
material
& b for
stands
Consider different
methods
assigning three ormore divisiparts:
front of

Symphony
3/I/i

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
division by player
the section, closer to the conductor. (Dividing the two fast
.
mmer ie aus eiter erne
division by stand
parts between stand partners instead of by stand will promote
sempre
ie

a compact sound quality.)


n Avoiding awkward skips: In transitions between different divisi arrangements, parts should be assigned in a manner that
3 avoids unwarranted audible breaks between the phrases,
3
which
j resultj from awkward
j voice jleading

# unnecessarily.

# avoids
switching
staves
The plan shown here avoids tricky melodic jumps at mm.
34243 and 34445; at the same time, it allows as many players
as possible to read from one staff ( l , Ravel, Bolero 18 +28).
ee In passages with frequent switches between divisi a 2 and a 4,
you should
divide two parts by stand (with the odd-numbered stands
taking the top line and the even-numbered stands taking
the bottom line)
divide four parts by player. This minimizes melodic and
visual switches.

division by group of players/stands


division accordingn to
a more
individual
poco
meno
mosso qsystem.
= 122
In order to decide how
to
design
the
system and how to assign
arco
aa
parts, consider the following factorssome musical, some practical:
277
cc Timbre: Division by player is preferable in passages where
Bartk
the combined parts are intended to create a dense, homogeConcerto/v
neous weave of
di .sound. This applies especially to sustained
pizz.
chords and other homophonic passages. When such a timbre
is intended, you should change the printed instructions to
indicate a division by player ( h ). Perhaps the scheme in n
should be changed into division by player too.
h = 116 playing: Division by
dd Juxtaposition ofAllegramente
material and ensemble
di .
1
stands or blocks of stands is preferable pizz.
if the parts play very
Ravel,
Piano material. Such a strategy will also make players feel
different
Concerto/i
more secure, because they will share their part with their stand
partners. Here a special divisi arrangement moves a block of

f- 2 #
& 4 #

#2
& 2

cc
Debussy
Rondes

9.23dd

stands 4-6

stands 1-3
outside

. . . . . . . . >

# # # n # # ~~~

( )
#

ger et antasque q = 126


4
15 +7

b . b - ..

.
J
p e crepressi

1er et 2e P.
3e et 4e P.
5e et 6e P.

&c

. b b b b
J

scen

do molto

O
~~~

O
O
(con sord.)

3
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

. . 3. . 1. . 2. . . . . . . . n . . . . . . . . 1. .
DIV. . .

. .
### 3
~~~
& 4
6
p stacc. e leggeriss.
2. MET 3
. .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2. . 1. . 2
### 3
# n . . # . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ~~~
& 4
9.23dd Dec11, 110%
p stacc.6e leggeriss.
Lo stesso movimento q = 63

### 3
& 4

dd
Verdi
Falsta III/ii

# #

35

1.a MET (senza sord.)

armonici

stands 1-3
inside

Modr, sans lenteur (dans un rhythme trs souple) e = 116

ee

b
& b b b b 68

44

Debussy
La Mer/i

501

b
& b b b b 68

DIV.
pizz.

DIV.

pizz.

Martin Wulfhorst, The Orchestral Violinists Companion, 2012 (To order the book visit www.orch.info)

502

9 Decoding and Marking Orchestral Parts 9.23 Divisi: Which Part Should I Play?

i Section size: For a section of twelve first violins (instead of


Debussys standard section size of sixteen), reduce the stipulated division of four groups of three violins to four groups of
two violins so that acoustic proportion to the tutti is approximately maintained.
Ex.: Verdi, Aida IV/10 U Balance: With Verdis original division, only a single first violin of a twelve-piece section plays
each of the arco parts on the three lower staves. To make these
arco parts sound fuller, assign them to stands 46, and assign
the pizzicato parts to the six second violins who sit closest to
them. (The original second-violin part will not suffer from a
reduced number of players.)
Ex.: Sibelius, Symphony 5/iv J and L Avoidance of awkward
page turns: Design the divisi plan so that one player at each
stand can turn the pages easily without missing important
notes.
Ex.: Zarathustra/end Visual appearance and issues of leading:
Though original divisi plans that involve one or more solo
players and several tutti parts should usually be followed literally, here it looks odd if the inside player at the first stand is
the only one in his block of stands who is not playing. He or
she should double the top of the tutti parts, as in all passages
for one solo and two or more tutti parts (for instance, Debussy,
La mer/ii 24 ).
j Tradition of the orchestra: Some string sections have devised a
divisi policy so that the concertmaster or principal needs to
give instructions only in particularly complex passages. Such
a policy might look like this:
For three parts, always divide by stand.
For all other divisions, always divide by person.
Task 9.23: Work out and mark the divisi schemes in tricky pieces
such as Debussys Jeux or Lutoawskis Concerto. Use the page at
http://www.orch.info/parts as a model.

Reading and performing divisi passages


Ex. 6.10ab In passages with octave divisi, read whichever part
is easiest to read and transpose the notes up or down an octave
if necessary.
cc Complex passages with two or three parts printed on a single
staff, particularly those with parts crossing, are difficult to
read. Especially if you are playing the second part you probably will need to memorize your pitches.
All types of divisi discussed so far have entailed distributing
two or more parts between playersincluding divisi strategies
where only a portion of the section plays, while the others pause
( d /14). But there are two more types of divisi that entail essentially only a single part. Such plans, designed by the composer,
the players, or the conductor, serve to facilitate difficult spots or
strengthen certain effects. The following two terms have been
coined for use here:
Alternating divisi: A single line of music is split horizontally
between two or more alternating sections or groups of players.
Complementary divisi: Two or more groups or sections simultaneously play slightly different versions of the same material.

Berlioz seems to have been the composer who invented the alternating-divisi plan (or at least the first major composer to apply
it systematically):
ff In order to facilitate a single line of fast, tricky eighths,
Berlioz distributed the notes between two groups of first and
second violins so that they play alternating or slightly overlapping segments. He described this passage in his Treatise:
Sometimes the rapidity, complexity, or high position of the
tones would make a piece too dangerous; or else the author
may want to be sure of a secure and neat execution: in such
cases the violins should be divided, some playing one part of
the passage, the rest another. Thus the notes of each section
are interspersed with short rests, not noticed by the listener,
which allow, as it were, a breathing space to the players and
afford them time to reach difficult positions securely and to
strike the strings with the necessary vigor. ...if the parts are
divided between the two players at each desk and each part
is thus played on both sides of the orchestra [in the 19thcentury seating arrangement with the violin sections on opposite sides of the conductor, as shown in Figure 8.12/A], the
fragments will connect smoothly and it will be impossible to
notice the division of the passage ( Berlioz 1844, 2930,
and 1948, 4243).
A number of other composers followed suit, including Verdi ( kk ),
Tchaikovsky (Overture Nutcracker/33), Bartk (Concerto/v/259).
and Prokofiev (Kij/iv 47 , 51 ).
Today players and conductors apply alternating-divisi patterns
even where they are not notatedespecially in order to make
switches between different playing modes and registers easier,
smoother, and less hectic:
gg The alternation between ricochet and pizzicato is nearly impossible to perform. Instead, the outside players should play
the ricochet, the inside players should play the pizzicato.
hh Divide arco and pizzicato within the section in order to
minimize the physical motions in this extremely quiet and
suspenseful passage. The only other optionleft-hand pizzicatowill never produce the same sound quality.
ii Distribute the notes at the seam between arco and pizzicato, with players leaving out alternate notes: this prevents
players from chopping off or accenting the last arco and from
playing the first pizzicato note late or sloppily.
jj Stagger this tricky string change in a similar manner. In
other, similar passages, leave out an awkward note that is doubled by the seconds (Sibelius, Violin Concerto/i/ 12 +16) or
assign it to the seconds (Schumann, Symphony 1/iv/181).
Alternating divisi also helps to facilitate pizzicato passages.
kk You may split extended, very fast, and loud pizzicato passages between outside and inside players: here the groups
alternate on every quarter, as they may in Ex. 7.2g too. In
Stravinskys Sacre/i 40 , they may alternate on every fourth
dotted quarter.

Martin Wulfhorst, The Orchestral Violinists Companion, 2012 (To order the book visit www.orch.info)

9.23
9 Decoding and Marking Orchestral Parts 9.23 Divisi: Which Part Should I Play?

n 3
2

# # n
J
#
J



&C
3
3
div. vn. 1/I+2/I

unis.
n 3
1
1
3
1
4

4
J

# n
#
J

J
&C
3
1
9.23 [2-16m March 11 110%
vn. 1/II+2/II

ff

412

Berlioz, Symphonie
fantastique/i

gg

Allegro agitato e appassionato assai h = 132


2
4
3

.
# # # # . . . 4 . .

& c
3
3
div. uniti
pizz.
p leggero
(inside)
Allegro q = 120
(outside)
arco ||:4

AA +9

Verdi
Otello I

hh
Beethoven
Symphony 3/i

arco

Allegro con brio h. = -!60


(outside)
(inside)
arco
div. pizz.
4

b
& b b 43

380

503

2 arco

j
#

pizz.

arco
j n arco
1 arco
j

n
# j n

pizz.

pizz.

pizz.

:||
J .
.
.
pizz.

3 j arco

pizz.

unis. .
@
@
b

.
. . . . . . . . . @ . .

@
@ @ hrn. f @

@ point @

@ repeat:

p decresc.

pizz.

arco

. n . . (outside)
1 2
103
J J n j # n
Brahms
b b b 68 b j J J J
Symphony 1/i &
J J

.
J
J
n

div.
p
P
(inside) P
dim.
p
ii

Allegro [q. = 92100]


2

2
Beethoven
..
bb4
r
Symphony 3/iv &
n n
sautille'
jj

274

Allegro molto h = 76

kk
Verdi
Otello I

&

div.

>j
3
j # #
# # J J

>

Allegro q = 120

# cAA+4

pizz.
div.

Allegro q = 100

.. .. . . .!. .!. .!. .!.


&
! ! !

2 p
Martin Wulfhorst,vn.The
Orchestral Violinists Companion, 2012 (To order the book visit www.orch.info)
ll

Verdi
Falsta I/i

## c

11 +5
vn. 1

arco leggero e molto stacc.

pizz.

Symphony 3/i

&

@ @
p decresc. point

repeat:

hrn.

. . n . .
j
J J n j # n
b . J J J
J J
JJ
n

p
P
p P

@ @
f

Allegro [q. = 92100]


9 Decoding
and Marking Orchestral Parts 9.23 Divisi: Which Part Should I Play?
2
ii
(outside)
103
2
mm1 Many
In the late 19thb century
composers introduced complemenconductors and musicians apply a divisi plan of De
6
Brahms
b
b
&
8
tary-divisi1/iplans to create new colors and effects that result from
Falla (Nights/i 23 ) to other passages with tremolo or fast repSymphony
div.
the simultaneous combination of different articulations or playing
etitions: only half of the section plays tremolo or repetitions,
(inside)
modes:
while the other dim.
plays regular note values. This distribution
ll The first violins play arco with repetitions while the seconds
lends heightened intensity to Bruckners climaxes and brings
play the same pitches pizzicato.
melodic clarity and luminousness to some of Schumanns
Players and conductors
apply such divisi strategies too in order to
scrambling passages (Ex. 9.8ee).
jj
Allegro
moltowhen
h = 76
achieve and strengthen
special
effects
no
amount
of
practicEx.
9.21h, Stravinsky, Sacre 176 +2, +4 Half the section plays
274
3
div.
arco
a loud col legno or pizzicato passage audible.
ing
and
rehearsing
truly
produces
the
desired
result.
b
2
Beethoven
..form of complementary divisi Ex. 6.2qtomake
b
b
&
4
Players
use different fingerings in order to avoid unEx.
9.15ux

The
most
common
Symphony 3/iv
warranted sudden color changes.
are divisi, staggered, and free bowings: the players use differsautille'
Ex. 6.8c, 9.21bb Only a part of the section performs a cerent bowings for the same music in order to create the illusion
tain notated or interpretive effect, preventing its exaggeration
of a long, seamless legato.
and guaranteeing a polished timbre. If here some of the first
Ex.: Beethoven, Symphony 3/i/280 Use staggered bowings also
violins play across the strings, the passages will sound clearer,
on bowed-out notes
in order
to create subtle effects: players
Allegro
q = 120
kk from
pizz.

at
different
points
in
smoother, and probably, better tuned than if everybody folshould switch
all
down
to
AA +4 div.
3
#
order
to
make
the
transition
very
gradual.
lows the instructions to play on the G string. Similarly, the
Verdi
c
&
Complementary-divisi
schemes
open
up
a
realm
of
infinite
nupassage in Ex. 5.11x will sound clearer if half the players leave
Otello I
ances, especially in Romantic and late-Romantic music:
out the grace notes.
Ex. 5.4h/39 Half the section plays dtach to prevent the legato
notes from sounding fuzzy or unarticulated.

504

r
n

j # #
# # J

ll
Verdi
Falsta I/i

&

>j


J
>

Allegro q = 100

## c

.. .. . . .!. .!. .!. .!.


! ! !


vn. 2 p

11 +5
vn. 1

arco leggero e molto stacc.

pizz.

II

Bewegt, doch nicht schnell [h = 63]

trem.
1 #

div.

#
#

Bruckner

# #C
Symphony 7/iv &
@ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @
mm

330

trem.1

Martin Wulfhorst, The Orchestral Violinists Companion, 2012 (To order the book visit www.orch.info)