To do this assignment with the online quiz, read each brief description below, then CLICK ON THE SCORE LINKS AND SEE THESE FEATURES IN THE SCORES THEMSELVES (a picture paints a thousand words...).  Specific guidelines on how to read/decipher the scores are provided at the bottom of this page.  You will need to consult this material as you do the online quiz.


The most important thing is to get the main idea of how the orchestra expanded from Bach to Stravinsky.





1. Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, movement 1 (1721)
This is a
concerto grosso (soloists are "transverse flute" [means a flute, not a recorder], "principal violin", and harpsichord ["cembalo"]). Instruments are labeled in Italian. "Ripieno" indicates which instruments are assigned to the accompanying orchestra that plays the ritornello sections.  The numbers below the bottom staff line are the "figured bass" (in this example, the harmonies implied by those numbers are rendered by the keyboardist of the basso continuo--NOTE: The editor of this score has provided a hypothetical "realization" of this implied harmony in tiny notes in the right-hand staff of the cembalo part).  All of the instruments in this score read/play in the key of D [there are no transposing instruments in this score].


2. Mozart, Symphony No. 40, movement 1 (1788)

Instruments are labeled in Italian. Strings carry the primary melodies. This score expands the woodwind family [one of the few Mozart symphonies to have both oboes and clarinets], and shows the horns below the winds.  Notice that Mozart indicates the clarinets are "in Bb"--this means they are "transposing" instruments that sound a "Bb" when they play a written "C" (normal instruments sound a "C" when they play a written "C").  To remedy this issue for a transposing Bb instrument, a composer must write the transposing line a whole-step higher in the score--this is why the Bb Clarinet part in this example has the key signature of "A minor" [a whole-step higher than "G minor"].  When you look at the horn ["corno"] parts, the 1st horn is pitched in B-flat, and the second horn is pitched in G--these types of horns did not have valves to play scales like modern horns do--they could only play "root-5th-8ve-10th" hunting horn calls in the key the horn is pitched in.  The G horn could play G-D-G-B. The Bb horn could play Bb-F-Bb-D--put the two horns together and you get the primary notes of a G minor harmony/scale: G-Bb-D-F-G-Bb-[B]-D.  Because these types of horns are already pitched in a particular key, composers did not feel the need to write a key signature for them.


3. Beethoven, Symphony No. 5, movement 4 (1808)

Instruments are labeled in Italian. The amazing 4th movement of this work expands the classic orchestra (piccolo, contrabassoon are added to the standard woodwinds; Trumpets and 3 trombones are added to the horns for greater brass power; Timpani [kettle drums] are used in the percussion as commonly found in Classical orchestral scores.  Notice, that because this movement is in C major, Beethoven chooses to use all "C" instruments ("C" clarinets, "C" trumpets [these were valveless pitched instruments like the pitched horns were discussed in the Mozart example above], so the key signatures for all the instruments in the score are identical in this excerpt.


4. Berlioz, Symphonie fantastique, movement 5 (1830)

Instruments are labeled in Italian, but the original title and and score instructions are labeled in French (Romantic nationalism).  Massive expansion of the orchestra!  4 horns/4 bassoons instead of 2 (horns are used as treble instruments and bassoons are used as bass instruments here, so Berlioz puts the horns above the bassoons in the score). 2 Trumpets [pitched in Eb] and 2 Bb-Cornets [with valves!] show his interest in subtle color differences. Brass expanded with 3 trombones and 2 tubas.  Larger percussion: two timpani players!  bass drum, cymbals, orchestra bells [chimes].  Violins and violas divided massively into eight separate staves.


5. Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, Prelude to Act I (1865)

Instruments/titles/score indications are labeled in German (Romantic nationalism).  24-stave score!  Woodwinds: 3 bassoons and English Horn added. Percussion: timpani, triangle, cymbals.  Strings: Harp!, added to traditional strings. Bigger brass: 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, and 4 horns pitched CHROMATICALLY in E and F (since there were no valved horns available to him, Wagner cleverly accomplished the same thing by writing for 2 horns "pitched in E" and 2 horns "pitched in F" that could cover the entire chromatic spectrum when they are played together!)


6. Brahms, Symphony No. 3, movement 3 (1883)

Notice how "Classical" Brahms' orchestra is as compared to Berlioz' or Wagner's:  Orchestra is comprised only of strings with simple pairs of woodwinds and horns.  The melodies in this movement are carried primarily by darker instruments (cello instead of violin on this page of the excerpt).


7. Debussy, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (1894)

Instruments/titles/score indications in French (by now, this is standard for a French composer to do). Notice the focus on vivid non-traditional COLOR: woodwind/valved horns carry the tunes.  Harp and shimmering string tremolos add background effects.


8. Stravinsky, Petroushka, 2nd Tableau (1911)

Instruments/titles/score indications in French.  Carefully laid-out score.  Lots of woodwind (2 piccolos!, 2 flutes, 3 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets [chromatically in Bb and A]. Brass: 2 valved Bb-trumpets ["pistoni"]. Expanded percussion: cymbals, triangle, snare drum [tambour], tambourine ["tambour de Basque"], military side drum [tambour militaire"], piano!; Strings [pizzicato/plucking effects]



These scores are excerpted from the catalog of online scanned scores available to the public through the Indiana University Library.




How Orchestral Scores are Set up and Read:


You do not need to memorize every detail listed below--read it all to get the big picture, then take the online quiz as you consult these notes.


Scores can list instruments in a variety of languages (if you don't know what the instrument names mean, you should look them up here)


HOW AN ORCHESTRAL SCORE IS SET UP from top of score to bottom of score: (A good example of a traditional orchestral score with all four families shown is Beethoven, Symphony No. 5, movement 4)


WOODWINDS are at the top of the score and bracketed as a unit (high to low: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon)--piccolo [a high flute] would go above the flutes; contrabassoon [a low bassoon] would go below the bassoons [labeled in Italian as "Fagotti," which means "bundle of sticks"]

- BRASS: Horns are put directly below the woodwinds; If there are more brass, they are put below the horns: (high to low: trumpets, trombones, tuba)

- PERCUSSION: If there is percussion, it is entered in the score directly below the brass

- If there are singers or instrumental soloists, they are inserted just before the strings

- STRINGS are at the bottom of the score (high to low: violin I, violin II, viola, cello, double bass)
- In Baroque works, the basso continuo part appears below string section (figures/numbers written below the melodic string bass line)
- In Baroque concerto grossos, the main soloists appear at the top of the score
- In Classic/Romantic/Modern concertos, the soloist usually appears above the strings
In a traditional score, the names of the instruments are indicated in Italian



- CLEFS:  The sole purpose of using different clefs is so the composer can keep avoid writing ledger lines as much as possible. For this reason, high instruments are usually written in treble clef, and low instruments are usually written in bass clef, but some instruments (particularly the viola) are written in "C" clef (the point in the center of the clef marks middle "C").   Keep in mind that, theoretically, all clefs are moveable -- even the standard "Treble" and "Bass" clefs can be moved up or down on a staff, as seen in some older editions of Bach's music, etc.  In a bass clef, the two dots always enclose the "F" below middle "C".  In treble clef, the "bullseye" swirl towards the bottom of the clef encloses the "G" above middle "C". )



To make it easier for musicians to learn how to play several different instruments, composers/builders adopted a system of common fingerings for certain woodwind and brass instruments, so when a player sees a "middle C" in the written music, they employ a particular fingering.  If the instrument is pitched in "C", a written "middle C" results in the sound of a "middle C".  On a transposing instrument, a written "middle C" results in some other pitch (depending on the instrument's level of transposition that is indicated on the musical score).  For example, on a "B-flat" trumpet or a "B-flat" clarinet, a written "middle C" results in a "Bb" pitch that is a whole step lower.  To compensate for this, the composer will WRITE the Bb trumpet or Bb clarinet part a WHOLE STEP HIGHER in the score, which is why the key signature is also written a whole step higher.  This is clearly seen in the excerpt from Mozart, Symphony No. 40, movement 1, which has almost all of the instruments written in the key of G minor (2 flats), but the Bb clarinet part is written a whole step higher in A minor (no sharps or flats).


- IN OLDER SCORES, SOME BRASS INSTRUMENTS DID NOT HAVE VALVES, so they had to be "pitched" in a specific key (their "pitched" key is identified by their label in the score):

Before the mid-1800s, trumpet and horn players used different-sized pieces of metal tubing to "pitch" their instrument in a particular key.   In such cases, a composer will write their part without a key signature (see the horn ["corno"] parts in Mozart, Symphony No. 40, movement 1--the upper horn is pitched in "Bb" and the lower horn is pitched in "G", but both lines appear to have the same key signature [they don't...they just do not have a key signature at all).  In the example from Brahms, Symphony No. 3, movement 3, notice that the movement is in C minor (3 flats), but the horn ["Horner"] part has no key signature even though in this case the horn is pitched in "C".


Here is a good but somewhat tricky test for these concepts: The example from Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, Prelude to Act I is in A minor, but the "A" clarinet and "A" bass clarinet transpose by the interval of a minor 3rd, so their parts are written up a minor 3rd higher in the key signature of C minor (3 flats). The trumpets [trompeten] are pitched in "F", so there is no need for a key signature in their part. The horns [horner] are pitched in E and F, so there is no actual key signature for them [they are not written in A minor--there just is no key signature]. 



To make complicated orchestral scores easier for a conductor to read/understand (especially in music that is extremely large, chromatic or atonal) many modern composers/score editors choose to write their scores entirely in "C" (no key signatures, no hassling with transposing instruments--THE EXACT PITCHES THAT ARE SOUNDED BY EVERY INSTRUMENT ARE SHOWN IN THE SCORE AS THEY OCCUR.  The individual part that the player reads on their music stand is written in the traditional manner (transposed for a transposing instrument, etc.)


In a traditional orchestral score, the instruments/tempos/score indications are labeled in ITALIAN (this is because Italians were the first to devise methods of printing music).  By the late Classic era, composers began to incorporate elements of NATIONALISM into their scores, so they identified their instruments, tempo markings and other score indications in their native language [German/Austrians use German language, the French use French language, Americans use English, etc.. ] Some scores are also printed in editions that are designed to be sold in many countries, so they may include such information in multiple languages. In a score, if you don't know what the instrument names mean, you should look them up here)