Friday, July 8, 2016

Nothing But Strings

No. 225 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series series series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


We complete our survey of music for "not quite orchestra" with music for string orchestra. A string orchestra, as the name suggests, consists solely of a string section. The instruments of such an orchestra are most often the following: the violin, which is divided into first and second violin players, the viola, the cello, and the double bass. String orchestras can be of chamber orchestra size ranging from between 12 ( = 12) and 21 musicians ( = 21) or consist of the entire string section of a large symphony orchestra which could have 60 musicians ( = 60);

The repertoire for string orchestra goes from the baroque to the modern. Sometimes works originally written for string quartet, quintet, sextet etc. are arranged for string orchestra.

We begin our montage with one of Felix Mendelssohn's string symphonies (pr string sinfonias). It wasn't uncommon for Mendelssohn's compositions to be played at home with a private orchestra for the associates of his wealthy parents amongst the intellectual elite of Berlin. Between the ages of 12 and 14, Mendelssohn wrote 12 string symphonies for such concerts. These works were long ignored for but are now recorded and played in concerts.

Born in Latvia and educated in France, Talivaldis Kenins moved to Canada in 1951 to assume duties as organist and music director at St. Andrews Latvian Lutheran Church in Toronto. He joined the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto the following year, teaching composition and contrapuntal techniques there for over 30 years. The work I chose to program is one for string ensemble, which unites his modern technique and his Lutheran faith.

To close the montagem I chose Richard Strauss' Metamorphosen, a study for 23 solo strings scored for ten violins, five violas, five cellos, and three double basses. It was composed during the closing months of the Second World War, from August 1944 to March 1945. The piece was commissioned by Paul Sacher, the founder and director of the Basler Kammerorchester and Collegium Musicum Zürich, to whom Strauss dedicated it. It was first performed in January 1946 by Sacher and the Collegium Musicum Zürich.

I think you will love this music too!