In the last few weeks I've had the good fortune to return to some orchestra playing, and for one concert I played in the second violins, and the other in the firsts.
So after all this time "off," which was better, the firsts or seconds? Which was more fun? Which was harder or easier?
They both certainly have their own personalities.
In the second violins, one is surrounded by the orchestra - which is a comfy feeling, if a little loud. There is less position-playing, but arguably more tricky counting and noodling around, providing that "backdrop" harmony. One has to cultivate a taste for harmony. For example, playing "Firebird" in the second violins last week, we found a mistake in the score (every single time I play this thing it comes up) - one measure before 10, in the bottom part, that should be an E natural, not an F. Correcting this felt downright triumphant - it changes the whole mood, transitioning in to the final movement! This is the level of harmonic geekdom and pride that I've developed, playing in the seconds.
But playing in the first violins - it requires a certain kind of courage. One must often play the melody, often way in the stratosphere. And the melody, by its nature, is an extroverted beast, there is no hiding. The firsts are also positioned right next to the audience, with no buffer. No getting out of the spotlight here! All this can serve as a reminder: the spotlight is actually a nice place for a performer to be.
So which do you like to play better, first or second violin? And if your answer is "both," tell us what you are in the mood for today, for example if you were to sit down in a quartet and someone said, "first or second today?" which one? Or if someone were to offer you a choice in orchestra, which would you choose And if you'd rather be playing viola, let us know, and tell us why!
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