The concertmaster (from the German Konzertmeister) in the U.S. and Canada is the leader of the first violin section in an orchestra (or clarinet in a concert band) and the instrument-playing leader of the orchestra. After the conductor, the concertmaster is the second-most significant leader in an orchestra, symphonic band or other musical ensemble. Another common term in the U.S. is "First Chair." In the U.K., Australia and elsewhere in the English-speaking world, the term commonly used is "leader."

IPO Lazar Shuster 2012
Lazar Shuster, Concertmaster of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 2012.


In an orchestra, the concertmaster is the leader of the first violin section. There is another violin section, the second violins, led by the principal second violin. Any violin solo in an orchestral work is played by the concertmaster (except in the case of a concerto, in which case a guest soloist usually plays).[1] It is usually required that the concertmaster be the most skilled musician in the section, experienced at learning music quickly, counting rests accurately and leading the rest of the string section by their playing and bow gestures.

The concertmaster sits to the conductor's left, closest to the audience, in what is called the "first chair," "first [music] stand" or outside of the US "first desk." (In one instance, Ferdinand David had been concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra since Felix Mendelssohn became conductor in 1835. In 1847, Joseph Joachim joined David on the first desk.) The concertmaster makes decisions regarding bowing and other technical details of violin playing for the violins, and sometimes all of the string players. They lead the orchestra in tuning before concerts and rehearsals, and other technical aspects of orchestra management.[2] Leading the orchestral tuning is not a mere formality; if the concertmaster believes that a section is not adequately tuned, they will signal to the oboe player to play another "A." Several larger orchestras have one or more assistant concertmasters, who lead the orchestra in the concertmaster's absence.

The concertmaster, along with the conductor and section principals, will normally participate in the auditions of important musicians (e.g., principal players) in the orchestra.

Other large ensembles

In a standard concert band, the concertmaster is the principal clarinet, oboe, or flute and leads the ensemble's tuning. The first-chair clarinet concertmaster will, in common practice, play all solos for their instrument. Often the lead flautist will receive similar responsibilities to the clarinet concertmaster, depending on several factors such as age, skill and time spent in the ensemble. The concertmaster will, in both orchestral and wind band settings, also coordinate with other principals and section leaders, in most cases being their senior in terms of group pecking order.

In brass bands, the role of concertmaster is often filled by the principal solo cornet or trumpet.


The duties and tasks of the concertmaster are myriad. Primarily, they act as the conduit between conductor and orchestra and are accountable to both parties.

One of the principal tasks of the concertmaster is to provide bowings for the 1st violins prior to rehearsal. This entails a great knowledge of historical playing styles in addition to complete idiomatic understanding of the mechanics of string playing. Section leaders among the other strings will base their bowings on those of the concertmaster and these section leaders (called principals) may confer during rehearsal in order to ensure unity and cohesion of execution between the string sections. Ensemble cohesion emanates directly from the contact and connection between these vital front desk positions. The concertmaster assumes responsibility for the tone and execution of the entire section of 1st violins, in addition to performing any solo passages that occur in a given piece.

Another primary duty of the concertmaster is to translate instructions from the conductor into specific technical language for the strings. Some conductors prefer to speak more broadly and defer to the concertmaster on such matters out of respect for the musicians who are expert specialists while the conductor is, often (unless he or she is a string player), a generalist.

Full-time professional orchestras work with several conductors through the course of a regular season. Accordingly, while the conductor may change week to week or month to month, the concertmaster lends a sense of stable and constant leadership day to day. While the impetus for the orchestra to play is given by the conductor's gestures, oftentimes for reasons of precision, the orchestra will actually follow the bow of the concertmaster as their cue to play. This is because the conductor's gestures exist in the abstract whereas the concertmaster produces sound along with their fellow musicians. Further, the idiosyncratic technique of some conductors can make it difficult for the orchestra to enter together. Yet another duty of the concertmaster is to maintain a sense of decorum during rehearsals by setting a personal example and by monitoring the room to ensure all members of the orchestra are being cooperative. It is more appropriate for the concertmaster to ask for quiet if there is a bit of chatter than it is for a guest conductor unfamiliar with the orchestra.

In performances given in America and/or featuring American or British orchestras, the concertmaster will usually walk onstage individually after the rest of the orchestra is seated, and bow and receive applause before the conductor appears. In continental European orchestras, this practice is uncommon. There, the concertmaster usually walks onstage with the rest of the orchestra. As the representative of the orchestra, the concertmaster will usually shake hands with the conductor at the beginning or end of a concert as a sign of mutual respect and appreciation.

See also


  1. ^ "The role of the Concertmaster". South Florida Musicians.
  2. ^ "About the Classical Orchestra". Community Arts Music Association. Archived from the original on 6 Feb 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
American Symphony Orchestra

The American Symphony Orchestra is a New York-based American orchestra founded in 1962 by Leopold Stokowski whose mission is to demystify orchestral music and make it accessible and affordable for all audiences. Leon Botstein is the orchestra's music director and principal conductor. They perform regularly at Carnegie Hall and Symphony Space in New York City. Its concertmaster is Erica Kiesewetter.

At This Time

At This Time is an album by American pianist, composer and music producer Burt Bacharach, released in 2005 through Columbia. Guests that appear on the album include Elvis Costello and Rufus Wainwright. In 2006, the album won Bacharach the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album.

Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe, BWV 185

Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe (Merciful heart of eternal love), BWV 185 in Weimar for the fourth Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 14 July 1715.

Bach composed the cantata as concertmaster in Weimar, responsible for one church cantata per month. The text was written by the court poet Salomon Franck for the occasion and published in 1715. He included as the closing choral the first stanza of Johannes Agricola's hymn "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesus Christ". The cantata is structured in six movements begins with a duet, followed by a sequence of alternating arias and recitatives and closed by a four-part chorale. It is scored for a small ensemble of four vocal parts, oboe, strings and continuo.

Bach led the first performance in the court chapel of Schloss Weimar on 14 July 1715. He performed the cantata again, with small instrumental revisions, at the beginning of his tenure as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, coupled with the new cantata Ein ungefärbt Gemüte, BWV 24.

Christmas Eve with Johnny Mathis

Christmas Eve with Johnny Mathis is a Christmas album by American pop singer Johnny Mathis that was released on September 23, 1986, by Columbia Records. This was Mathis's fourth holiday-themed LP and focused exclusively on secular material.

The album spent a week on Billboard magazine's Christmas Albums chart in the issue dated December 12, 1992, (no such chart was published in 1986) and two weeks on its Top Pop Catalog Albums chart in December 1994.The recording of "Jingle Bells" on this release is subtitled "(Let's Take a Sleigh Ride)" on the front and back covers of the album jacket. (The CD booklet does not include song titles on the cover.) The track opens with background vocalists singing, "Let's take a sleigh ride, a merry sleigh ride," and the subtitle is inserted into each refrain of the chorus. Although no credit for additional lyrics is cited, the credit for the arranger of this rendition, Ray Ellis, is listed with the songwriter's name on the LP label.The album's opener, "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas", was featured in the 1992 holiday release Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and included on its original soundtrack album. In the issue of Billboard dated November 28, 2009, the list of the "Top 10 Holiday Songs (Since 2001)" places the Mathis recording at number 10.

Dallas Symphony Orchestra

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) is an American orchestra based in Dallas, Texas. Its principal performing venue is the Meyerson Symphony Center in the Arts District of downtown Dallas.

David Nadien

David Nadien (March 12, 1926 – May 28, 2014) was an American violinist and violin teacher . He was concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic from 1966 to 1970. His playing style has been compared to that of Jascha Heifetz.

Emanuel Borok

Emanuel Borok is an American violinist of Russian descent, born July 15, 1944 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. He studied violin in Riga, Latvia with the renowned teacher Voldemar Sturestep. In 1959, he joined the Gnessin Music School in Moscow USSR where he continued his studies with Michael Garlitsky. He won top prizes in the All Russian Republic and All Soviet Union Violin Competitions. He became Second Concertmaster of the Moscow Philharmonic in 1971. In 1973, he emigrated to Israel where he became Concertmaster of the Israel Chamber Orchestra.

In 1974, he won the positions of Concertmaster of the Boston Pops and Associate Concertmaster of the Boston Symphony, where he spent 11 years.

In 1985, he won the position of Concertmaster in the Dallas Symphony which he held until his retirement in 2010. Emanuel Borok serves on the violin faculty at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He previously taught at the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston.Borok performs on a violin by Brothers Amati of 1608.

Eugenia Umińska

Eugenia Umińska (4 October 1910, Warsaw – 20 November 1980, Kraków) was a Polish violinist.

Student of the Warsaw Conservatory. From 1915 to 1918, she was a member of the Warsaw Music Society, where she was a student of Mieczysław Michałowicz. From 1919 till 1927 she studied at the Warsaw Conservatory with Józef Jarzębski. She completed her development with Otakar Ševčík (1927–28) and George Enescu (1932–34). In the years 1932–1934 she was the concertmaster of the Orchestra of the Polish Radio in Warsaw, and following this in 1937 became the second concertmaster of the Warsaw Philharmonic. At the same time, she was first violin in the string quartet of the Warsaw music society and member of the Polish string quartet. Playing in a duo with Karol Szymanowski she influenced similar compositions. During the 1940s she performed as soloist with orchestras in many countries. During the German occupation, a regular concert career was not possible, and instead she formed a piano trio with Kazimierz Wiłkomirski (cellist) and pianist Maria Wiłkomirska, which appeared regularly at a cafe-house in Zachęta-Gebäude. She took part in close to a hundred concerts before the start of World War II. In occupied Poland she refused an offer to play for the Nazi Germans, went into hiding and joined the Polish resistance (Armia Krajowa) as a medic. She took part in the Warsaw Uprising, was captured by the Germans but managed to escape during transit. After the war she became a professor at the Academy of Music in Kraków, and Academy's Rector between 1964 and 1966. She was active in various music-related organizations, and a judge in many musical competitions in Poland and abroad.

Franz Kneisel

Franz Kneisel (26 January 1865 – 26 March 1926) was an American violinist and teacher of Romanian birth.

Born in Bucharest, the son of a German bandmaster, he learned to play the flute, clarinet and trumpet as well as the violin. After graduating from the Bucharest Conservatory in 1879 he went to Vienna, where he continued his studies with Jakob Grün and Joseph Hellmesberger until 1882; he made his solo début in Vienna at the end of that year. The next season, he became concertmaster at the Hoftheater, and in 1884 went to Berlin to fill the same position in the Bilsesche Kapelle. In October 1885, though barely 20 years old, he was engaged by conductor Wilhelm Gericke as concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. For the next 20 years he was concertmaster and assistant conductor, appearing as soloist in many violin concertos and giving the first American performances of the concertos by Brahms and Carl Goldmark, as well as the première of the First Violin Concerto of Gustav Strube. As assistant conductor, he led the BSO in its performances at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Shortly after his arrival in Boston, he formed and led the Kneisel Quartet with other BSO string players. He was elected honorary member of the Alpha Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity in 1917.

Kneisel was for many years associated with the Worcester Festival in Massachusetts, first as concertmaster and assistant conductor (1885–96) and then as conductor (1897–1909). In 1905, he moved to New York to become the first head of the violin department of the newly established Institute of Musical Art (now the Juilliard School of Music), where he remained until his death. He also founded Kneisel Hall, a summer school of violin and chamber playing, at his home in Blue Hill, Maine. He was a demanding teacher, requiring much in both technical ability and expressive insight. At the time of his death, his renown as a teacher was such that he was ranked with Leopold Auer. In homage, Romanian composer George Enescu dedicated his Violin Sonata No. 3 in the folk character of Romania to Kneisel’s memory.

Kneisel played a leading role in American music as both soloist and chamber player, for both the range and variety of his programs and his dedication to the highest performance standards. Many Boston composers wrote works for him personally or for his quartet, and these formed a substantial part of his repertory. He composed a Grand Concert Etude for violin, and also published a number of technical studies. There are collections of Kneisel memorabilia at Blue Hill and at the Chapin Library of Williams College, Williamstown.

Kneisel was the teacher of the great American violinist and pedagogue Joseph Fuchs. He also taught Fuchs' younger sister violist Lillian Fuchs, Robert Talbot, Joan Field, and Vera Fonaroff.

His daughter Marianne (b Boston, 10 March 1897; d New York, 4 March 1972) was an American violinist. In 1938, she married retired banker and business executive Felix E. Kahn (b Mannheim, Germany, 25 January 1873; d Blue Hill, Maine, 25 July 1950), who had been a director of the Paramount Pictures Corporation and was a noted collector of violins, as well as a brother of banker and philanthropist Otto H. Kahn and composer Robert Kahn.

Fujimi Orchestra

Fujimi Orchestra (Japanese: 富士見二丁目交響楽団, Hepburn: Fujimi Nichōme Kōkyō Gakudan, lit. "Fujimi Block No. 2 Symphony Orchestra") is a yaoi Japanese novel series that has had a manga, an anime Original Video Animation, and a live-action film based on it. The novels are written by Koh Akizuki (秋月こお Akizuki Koh), and feature an amateur orchestra, its concertmaster and its conductor. Tonoin Kei, a musical genius who has studied extensively in the area of conducting, falls in love with violinist and music teacher, Morimura Yuuki. Morimura also acts as concertmaster for the amateur orchestra that meets three times a week at the Fujimi Civic Center. Morimura is in love with Kawashima Natsuko, a female flutist in the orchestra, but Kawashima falls for Tonoin when he joins as the group's new conductor in order to get closer to Morimura. The unfolding relationships serve as the bases of the stories.

Israel Baker

Israel Baker (February 11, 1919 – December 25, 2011) was an American violinist and concertmaster.

Through a long and varied career he played with many of the greatest figures in the worlds of classical music, jazz and pop. He appeared on hundreds of recordings by artists as diverse as Igor Stravinsky, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tom Waits, and appeared on many film scores including Psycho and Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. Baker was the concertmaster on The Dameans' Beginning Today album from 1973.Born in Chicago, he was the youngest of four children of Russian immigrants. He showed great talent as a violinist from an early age, appearing on national radio at the age of six. By the age of 22 Baker was concertmaster of Leopold Stokowski’s All-American Youth Orchestra. Later he was a member of Arturo Toscanini’s NBC Symphony Orchestra. During World War II he served as a violinist with the Army Air Forces in Atlantic City, NJ, playing requests to entertain wounded comrades.

After the war Baker increasingly gravitated towards the West Coast and session work,including work with the famed "Wrecking Crew", although he continued to be a presence in concert halls across the United States. He formed a duo with pianist Yaltah Menuhin; they made their New York debut in 1951. In 1961 he played alongside violinist Jascha Heifetz and cellist Gregor Piatigorsky in a series of chamber concerts, and in 1964 he recorded Arnold Shoenberg's "Fantasy for Violin & Piano" with Glenn Gould. He then went on to lead the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Away from the concert hall he led the West Coast version of the CBS Symphony.

Baker was married twice: to Caroline, who died in 1974, and then to Imelda. He had three children from his first marriage.

He died at his home in Studio City, California on December 25, 2011 following a stroke.

He is the grandfather to Vulfpeck bass player Joe Dart.

Jonathan Carney

Jonathan Carney is a violinist, violist, and conductor. Carney studied at the Juilliard School of Music with Christine Dethier and Ivan Galamian. He then moved to London on a Leverhulme Fellowship Award to study at the Royal College of Music with Trevor Williams.Carney grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey and graduated from Tenafly High School.

Laclede Quartet

Formed in 1978, the Laclede String Quartet (better known as the Laclede Quartet) is an all-female string quartet that plays popular as well as classical music. The Laclede Quartet was founded by violinist Sallie Coffman (now also concertmaster for the St. Louis Muny orchestra), and is from the Metropolitan St. Louis, Missouri, and Illinois area. Especially their popular music performances and CDs have resonated with audiences: their second album featured music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and was their biggest success to that date, 1992. Through the help of Hillary Clinton their fame has spread to the Middle East. In a 2000 interview, Sallie Coffman recollected, "We met her [Clinton] when she was in St. Louis and she took our recordings back to the White House . . . Somehow they made it to an embassy in Abudabi. We got such a kick out of getting fan mail from Abudabi through the diplomatic pouch."The quartet has recorded five CDs, which are sold locally in St. Louis and through their website.

Nashville String Machine

Nashville String Machine is a musical collective comprising session musicians, based in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. Members of the group have been credited on records dating from 1972 to the present, although the group was formally formed as "The Nashville String Machine" in 1981.The group was formed by violinist and concertmaster Carl J. Gorodetsky (born 1936/7 in Pennsylvania) and his wife (also violinist) Carol W. Gorodetsky (b. 1937 in Pennsylvania). They take care of contracting arrangers, players and studio support as needed; their available supply of potential orchestra members is up to 80 strong.Since the required number of orchestra members varies from project to project, individual members come and go. However, there are four members of the ensemble who date from its 1981 founding:

Carol W. Gorodetsky – violin

Pam Sixfin – violin

Gary Vanosdale – viola

Craig Nelson – arco bass.The music aggregating website AllMusic lists 1,171 albums on which "The Nashville String Machine" is credited (from 1972 through 2017). The group has appeared as large as an orchestra, or as small as a duo.


An orchestra (; Italian: [orˈkɛstra]) is a large instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which mixes instruments from different families, including bowed string instruments such as violin, viola, cello, and double bass, as well as brass, woodwinds, and percussion instruments, each grouped in sections. Other instruments such as the piano and celesta may sometimes appear in a fifth keyboard section or may stand alone, as may the concert harp and, for performances of some modern compositions, electronic instruments.

A full-size orchestra may sometimes be called a symphony orchestra or philharmonic orchestra. The actual number of musicians employed in a given performance may vary from seventy to over one hundred musicians, depending on the work being played and the size of the venue. The term chamber orchestra (and sometimes concert orchestra) usually refers to smaller-sized ensembles of about fifty musicians or fewer. Orchestras that specialize in the Baroque music of, for example, Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel, or Classical repertoire, such as that of Haydn and Mozart, tend to be smaller than orchestras performing a Romantic music repertoire, such as the symphonies of Johannes Brahms. The typical orchestra grew in size throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, reaching a peak with the large orchestras (of as many as 120 players) called for in the works of Richard Wagner, and later, Gustav Mahler.

Orchestras are usually led by a conductor who directs the performance with movements of the hands and arms, often made easier for the musicians to see by use of a conductor's baton. The conductor unifies the orchestra, sets the tempo and shapes the sound of the ensemble. The conductor also prepares the orchestra by leading rehearsals before the public concert, in which the conductor provides instructions to the musicians on their interpretation of the music being performed.

The leader of the first violin section, commonly called the concertmaster, also plays an important role in leading the musicians. In the Baroque music era (1600–1750), orchestras were often led by the concertmaster or by a chord-playing musician performing the basso continuo parts on a harpsichord or pipe organ, a tradition that some 20th century and 21st century early music ensembles continue. Orchestras play a wide range of repertoire, including symphonies, opera and ballet overtures, concertos for solo instruments, and as pit ensembles for operas, ballets, and some types of musical theatre (e.g., Gilbert and Sullivan operettas).

Amateur orchestras include those made up of students from an elementary school or a high school, youth orchestras, and community orchestras; the latter two typically being made up of amateur musicians from a particular city or region.

The term orchestra derives from the Greek ὀρχήστρα (orchestra), the name for the area in front of a stage in ancient Greek theatre reserved for the Greek chorus.


Ossia [osˈsiːa] is a musical term for an alternative passage which may be played instead of the original passage. The word ossia comes from the Italian for "alternatively" and was originally spelled o sia, meaning "or be it" (Fallows 774).

Ossia passages are very common in opera and solo-piano works. They are usually an easier version of the preferred form of passage, but in Mily Balakirev's Islamey, for instance, the urtext has ossia passages of both types (simpler and more difficult). Bel canto vocal music also frequently uses ossia, also called oppure, passages to illustrate a more embellished version of the vocal line (Fallows 774).

On the other hand, an ossia marking does not always indicate a change in difficulty; the piano solo music of Franz Liszt is typically full of alternative passages, often no easier or more difficult than the rest of the piece. This reflects Liszt's desire to leave his options open during a performance. Many of his ossia passages are cadenzas.

An unusual use of ossia is found in Alban Berg's Violin Concerto where several ossia parts are included for the solo violin. If the soloist chooses to play these, the concertmaster is required to play a different ossia (which takes part of the solo violin line that is lost in favor of the soloist's ossia).

Ottawa Symphony Orchestra

The Ottawa Symphony Orchestra (OSO) is a full size orchestra in Ottawa, Canada, including professional, student and amateur musicians. With around 100 musicians, the OSO is Ottawa's largest orchestra, which allows it to perform large symphonic repertoire of the 19th and 20th centuries, including works by Canadian composers.

William Hennessy

Violinist William Hennessy was the founder of the Australian String Quartet. He led the quartet from its formation in 1985 until 1996. Since 2006 he has been Artistic Director of the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, the orchestra which Jeffrey Crellin founded in 1991 under its original name Australia Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra.

But for over 30 years William Hennessy has seen advocacy of the music of Douglas Weiland as his primary artistic responsibility. In 2018 he created THE WEILAND PROJECT in order to bring the music of Douglas Weiland to world attention for the reference and pleasure of present and future generations.

William Hennessy was closely associated with the development of next-generation Australian chamber music ensembles such the TinAlley Quartet, Flinders Quartet, Hamer Quartet and the Seraphim Trio and has been a mentor to many string players who are now at the forefront of Australian professional musical life. He remains deeply committed to musicians of the future.

Other positions previously held include Head of Strings at the University of Melbourne, Concertmaster of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, deputy leader and founder member of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, member of the London based Academy of St Martin in the Fields, faculty member of ANAM, and founder/director of the Tasmanian Symphony Chamber Players, the Melbourne University Chamber Orchestra and the Adelaide Youth Chamber Orchestra.

William Hennessy continues to advocate for the music of the Australian composers Richard Mills AM, Calvin Bowman and Benjamin Martin.

He has made over 250 concerto appearances and has long been recognised as one of Australia's leading violinists and music educators. He has performed in forty-five countries..

In June 2018 William Hennessy was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to music.

Zagreb Soloists

The Zagreb Soloists (Croatian: Zagrebački solisti) is a chamber orchestra founded in Zagreb, Croatia, in 1953 through the auspices of Zagreb Radiotelevision, under the artistic leadership of the Italian cellist and conductor, Antonio Janigro. After Janigro left the ensemble in 1968, the group was led first by their concertmaster, Dragutin Hrdjok, and then by their longtime artistic director and concertmaster, Tonko Ninić. In 1997, Anđelko Krpan became concertmaster, and in 2002, Karlo Slobodan Fio, took over as artistic director of the ensemble. Since 2006, the concertmaster and artistic leader has been Borivoj Martinic-Jercic.

The Zagreb Soloists have given over 3,500 concerts in all parts of the world, and are also very well known for their numerous recordings.

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