Creatively Speaking
3:30 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

The Many Roles of a Concertmaster

Today, orchestra audiences know the concertmaster as the violinist who precedes the conductor onstage, and helps the orchestra tune – a sign that the concert is about to begin.  WRTI’s Susan Lewis discovered that the position carried duties both onstage and off.

LEWIS: The concertmaster is foremost the first chair of the first violins, a section that often carries the melody.  Philadelphia Orchestra Concertmaster David Kim says his musical duties include setting bowing patterns for the strings.

KIM: Let me use the slow movement of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusic. First I’m going to use a long bow  and try to capture as many notes as I can without changing the bow. If I decided, okay, well, I think we need more bow so I’m going to have us change bow - the direction that we change the bow -  many times. Then suddenly it will sound like I’m singer. Here’s one that I’m breaking the bow as it were.

LEWIS:  There are plenty of nonmusical duties as well.  On  a typical day, Kim checks in with the conductor before they start rehearsal.

KIM:  If it’s Yannick, go in and say hello, anything Maestro, last second, that you need to talk about? If it's a guest conductor, welcome them to town; do they need a restaurant recommendation? Do they need to know where to buy concert socks? Just anything, please depend on their concertmaster.

LEWIS:  Kim serves as liason between the conductor and members of the Orchestra.  He makes public appearances on behalf of the Orchestra, and the music director, if he is not available.

Listen to more about the concertmaster's responsibilities, onstage and off, in Susan Lewis' interview with Philadelphia Orchestra Concertmaster David Kim.

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