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Examplea of divisi strings?

I like music

Senior Member
What are some of your favorite examples of divisi strings?

i.e bars xy of ____

curious
One of my favourites. Vlns 1, 2, and violas are divisi'ed I think. Cellos doing what cellos gonna do, which is sound creamily beautiful (not divisi), and when you add those flutes/piccolo to the top, the texture is beautiful.

 

Sam Reed

stranger in a strange land
Are you asking because you want to study some basic divisi combinations to incorporate into your writing? If so, not sure how helpful my reply will be.

But if your question is more along the lines of "what are some of your favorite musical moments that happen to be divisi" --


Ravel's "Daphnis et Chloe," practically the entire ballet (it'd be easier to list the bars that don't contain divisi!) But in particular, the Danse Religeuse at rehearsal 5, and Lever du jour starting at rehearsal 155.

Opening bars of Ravel's "Une Barque sur l'Ocean" ... it's a background texture, easier to hear on some recordings than on others, but quite evocative of the sea. Also some really evocative divisi harmonics at rehearsal 15. Sublime stuff, because it's more than a cool effect; he brings it in at just the right moment where it contributes to the musical drama.

(Pretty much any Ravel score will have tons of great examples. Exciting tense tremolos in the first movement of "Rapsodie Espagnole," etc. etc. etc. ...)

Roy Harris Symphony no. 3, not sure the bar # but it starts at ~07:16 of this performance:


The interlocking patterns create a nice shimmering texture.

Rite of Spring, particularly rehearsal 79-83, and 84-85. Petrouchka has some great moments too.

Sibelius' "En Saga," 5 after rehearsal A. Somewhat similar to the Harris example, but less "liquid."

Vaughn Williams' Tallis Fantasia has a ton, frequently carefully chosen to emulate various organ stops.

For molto appassionato strings, lots of examples throughout Williams' "Angela's Ashes." In general, JW uses divisi quite a bit, in a wide variety of contexts, when it's possible/appropriate to do so given the dramatic events onscreen and the fact that the music has to be heard in concert with sound effects, dialogue, etc. The scene where Luke discovers his aunt and uncle burned to a crisp is divisi, but there's plenty of divisi writing in JW that isn't immediately obvious as divisi whilst casually listening (meaning, no obvious tip-off via reduction in thickness of the tone, the ensemble doesn't sound "smaller", etc.) (The statement of the rebel fanfare in the strings right toward the finale of the End Credits is divisi, but it sounds plenty big!)

"Moonlight" from Britten's "Four Sea Interludes."

Opening bars of Sibelius' 2nd Symphony.

There's just too many examples to mention them all! It's a bit like asking "favorite examples of motifs" ... once you start such a list, you soon realize it'll never be anything but scratching the surface. It's true you can get a lot of great colors without divisi, you can write a perfectly effective piece without ever dividing the strings ... but at the same time, post-Beethoven, divisi strings is frequently just as idiomatic as asking a pianist to play a C-major chord with their right hand (and almost as common).
 
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OP
ProfoundSilence

ProfoundSilence

Senior Member
mostly for recording comparisons to tweak my divisi attempts. But studying any orchestration technique is worth while.
 
OP
ProfoundSilence

ProfoundSilence

Senior Member

Pretty sure you can find the score on IMSLP.
This one will definitely be worth busting out the score for levels/balancing.

even has a solo - and alternating between divisi and unison - since it doesn't sound like the celli/bass do a whole lot of divisi - and there's moments when violins II and violas are unison with violins 1 8va. Atleast that's what my ears are telling me, god knows that's certainly not a typical seating arrangement.
 

mikeh-375

old school
This one will definitely be worth busting out the score for levels/balancing.

even has a solo - and alternating between divisi and unison - since it doesn't sound like the celli/bass do a whole lot of divisi - and there's moments when violins II and violas are unison with violins 1 8va. Atleast that's what my ears are telling me, god knows that's certainly not a typical seating arrangement.
It's not a typical seating arrangement because the piece is intended to be antiphonal - 2 string orchestras and a 4tet. The cellos are often divided, but as you say, the basses hardly at all.
 
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mikeh-375

old school
The slow mvt of Vaughn Williams 5th symphony has 16 part divisi chords, extremely moving and beautiful. Played pp and con sord, mocking that sound up would be instructive.
 
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NoamL

Winter <3
@ProfoundSilence I suggest you watch some YouTube videos of string orchestra pieces with the score.

There are a lot of beautiful pieces in the classical repertoire that are for strings alone. The Tallis Fantasia which was already recommended is one of the most famous. One of my favorites is the Serenade in E minor by Edward Elgar. Just speaking as an amateur cellist, I think Elgar understood the strings on a deep and almost spiritual level unlike any other composer. He writes beautiful and expressive parts for all the instruments even when they're not the main focus. The second movement of the Serenade is possibly the highlight of the whole piece.


Another composer who doesn't get enough reputation for writing expert and playable parts for strings? Igor Stravinsky! His Firebird suite has CONSTANT adjustments to the number of players - some parts are written for the full string sections, some for divisi, and there's lots of first chair solos as well. I couldn't find a YouTube video of just the suite but here is the whole ballet. One of the most magical parts of the ballet is the beginning of the Finale, 41:50 in this video. You will see Stravinsky divides every single string section into 3 parts and builds up a strange and wonderful wall of sound at pianissimo! Another great moment in the suite is the dance of the princesses (14:50-19:00 & then 21:00 onwards). Even though Stravinsky has at his disposal one of the largest ballet orchestras ever, in this part of the ballet he creates almost a chamber-orchestra sound with a lot of focus on woodwind solos, and dividing the strings into chamber-sized chunks is part of creating that sound. Also then Lullaby before the finale is great too. The whole thing is great! One of the greatest works of orchestration ever.

 
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OP
ProfoundSilence

ProfoundSilence

Senior Member
@ProfoundSilence I suggest you watch some YouTube videos of string orchestra pieces with the score.

There are a lot of beautiful pieces in the classical repertoire that are for strings alone. The Tallis Fantasia which was already recommended is one of the most famous. One of my favorites is the Serenade in E minor by Edward Elgar. Just speaking as an amateur cellist, I think Elgar understood the strings on a deep and almost spiritual level unlike any other composer. He writes beautiful and expressive parts for all the instruments even when they're not the main focus. The second movement of the Serenade is possibly the highlight of the whole piece.


Another composer who doesn't get enough reputation for writing expert and playable parts for strings? Igor Stravinsky! His Firebird suite has CONSTANT adjustments to the number of players - some parts are written for the full string sections, some for divisi, and there's lots of first chair solos as well. I couldn't find a YouTube video of just the suite but here is the whole ballet. One of the most magical parts of the ballet is the beginning of the Finale, 41:50 in this video. You will see Stravinsky divides every single string section into 3 parts and builds up a strange and wonderful wall of sound at pianissimo! Another great moment in the suite is the dance of the princesses (14:50-19:00 & then 21:00 onwards). Even though Stravinsky has at his disposal one of the largest ballet orchestras ever, in this part of the ballet he creates almost a chamber-orchestra sound with a lot of focus on woodwind solos, and dividing the strings into chamber-sized chunks is part of creating that sound. Also then Lullaby before the finale is great too. The whole thing is great! One of the greatest works of orchestration ever.

Pieces with the score is my preferred method I'm studying orchestration, simply because if I am relaxing doing something else I can leave it playing on the other screen and if something juicy catches my ear I can just tab over pause and see what they did
 

zolhof

Active Member
One of the most magical parts of the ballet is the beginning of the Finale, 41:50 in this video.
I love this one so much! Totally unrelated but I was watching some Glenn Gould videos yesterday and came across one of the funniest quotes about L'Historie du soldat:

"It's also full of a couple of bachian chorals that are subjected to the ultimate sacrilege... bad voice leading." hehehe what a goofball, even though he was dead serious.

OP, give Corigliano's First Symphony a try if you wanna hear some brutal (and beautiful) orchestral colors driven by absolutely brilliant divisi writing. You can read the score here. Any similarities to Goldenthal is not a mere coincidence. :) What a treasure to have studied under Corigliano and Copland. No wonder Elliot is such a special composer, one of the few I truly connect these days.
 

fantasy sound

New Member
Debussy/1st movement of La Mer, T.85
16 Cellos are divided into 4 parts (first 2/2/2/2 then 4/4/4/4).

This unusual instrumentation is quite powerful and effective placed right after the complete silent at T. 84, letting the listeners feel something special happened (4:35 in the video).
I'd say that would be the remarkable point where the sun rises on a calm sea horizon in this beautiful piece.

 
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