GARRITAN INTERACTIVE
PRINCIPLES OF ORCHESTRATION
by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov



Chapter IV
COMPOSITION

Lesson Notes: This lesson discusses tone qualities, repeated phrases, sforzando chords and emphasis of notes and chords.



Amplification and elimination of tone qualities.

The operation which consists in contrasting the resonance of two different groups (* or the different timbres of one and the same group), either in sustained notes or chords, transforms a simple into a complex timbre, suddenly, or by degrees. It is used in establishing a crescendo. While the first group affects the crescendo gradually, the second group enters piano or pianissimo, and attains its crescendo more rapidly. The whole process is thereby rendered more tense as the timbre changes. The converse operation—the transition from a complex to a simple timbre, by the suppression of one of the groups, belongs essentially to the diminuendo.

Professor Belkin Comments: There are several other aspects of this principle, on which RK does not elaborate here. First, the “natural” order for am important crescendo is: start with strings or winds, followed by the other of these two, and finish with the brass. This is because the brass is the loudest group in the orchestra, apart from a few percussion instruments. Strings can start from an almost inaudible pppp; all winds, by contrast, have a distinct attack. Some percussion instruments – e.g. timpani, bass drum, suspended cymbals - can cover all dynamics, starting from the quietest possible, to the most powerful sounds in the orchestra.

In general it desirable to ORCHESTRATE THE DYNAMICS. This means that, most of the time, the number of instruments playing will increase with the dynamics. It is also ALWAYS better to achieve proper orchestral balance by using the appropriate instrument in the appropriate register than by just using written dynamics. The practice, encouraged by some, of writing different dynamics for different instruments is not a good idea for a beginner; it requires a good deal of experience to be of any use. An orchestral player does not know what his neighbour sees in his part, so if one has mp and another has mf, they will normally try to match each other anyway.


Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:



No. 245. Snegourotchka, Section 313

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Other References :
Snegourotchka, Section 140 (cf.– Ex. 74)
A Fairy Tale Section V.
Shehderazade, 2nd movement Section D (cf. Ex 74).
Shehderazade, 4th movement pp. 221.


No. 246. Servilia, Section 228 (cf. – also section 44)

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Other References :
The Christmas night, Section 165 (cf. Ex 143)


No. 247. The Tsar's Bride, before Section 205

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No. 248. Russian Easter Fete, Section D

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No. 249. The Legend of Kitesh, Section 5


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No. 250. The Legend of Kitesh, Section 162


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Repetition of phrases, imitation, echo.

As regards choice of timbre, phrases in imitation are subject to the law of register. When a phrase is imitated in the upper register it should be given to an instrument of higher range and vice versa. If this rule is ignored an unnatural effect will be produced, as when the clarinet in its upper range replies to the oboe in the lower compass etc. The same rule must be followed in dealing with phrases, actually different, but similar in character; repeated phrases of different character should be scored in a manner most suitable to each.

Professor Belkin Comments: A reminder: it is important to conceive of wind instruments in terms of REGISTER: a flute in the bottom register can do things quite impossible on its high notes, and vice versa.

Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:



No. 251. Spanish Capriccio, Section S

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Other References :
The Tsar's Bride Section 157, Section 161.
A Legend of Kitesh Section 40 – 41.


In echo phrases, that is to say imitation entailing not only decrease in volume of tone but also an effect of distance, the second instrument should be weaker than the first, but the two should possess some sort of affinity. An echo given to muted brass following the same phrase not muted produces this distant effect. Muted trumpets are eminently suited to echo a theme in the oboes; flutes also may imitate clarinets and oboes successfully. A wood-wind instrument cannot be used to echo the strings, or vice versa, on account of the dissimilarity in timbre. Imitation in octaves (with a decrease in resonance) creates an effect resembling an echo.

Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:



No. 252. Sadko, Section 264

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Other References :
Ivan the Terrible, Act III Section 3.
Spanish Capriccio Section E - This example is not precisely an echo but resembles one in character (c. Ex. 44).
Sheherazade, 4th movement before Section O.


Sforzando-piano and piano-sforzando chords.

Besides the natural dynamic process of obtaining these marks of expression, a process which depends upon the player, they may also be produced by artificial means of orchestration.

a) At the moment when the wood-wind begins a piano chord, the strings attack it sforzando, a compound chord for preference, either arco or pizz. In the opposite case the sf in the strings must occur at the end of the wood-wind chord. The first method is also employed for a sf-dim., and the second for a cresc-sf. effect.

Professor Belkin Comments: This is once again an example of orchestrating the dynamics. In general any but the smallest accent should be reinforced by adding something in the orchestra - proportional of course to the overall dynamic.

b) It is not so effective, and therefore less frequent to give the notes of sustained value to the strings, and the short chords to the wood-wind. In such cases the tenuto chord is played tremo~lando on the strings.

Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:



No. 253. Legend of Kitesh, before Section 15-15

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Other References :
Vera Scheloga, before Section 35, Section 38, 10th bar.
Sheherazade, 2nd movement, Section P, 14th bar.


Method of emphasizing certain notes and chords.

In order to stress or emphasize a certain note or chord, besides the marks of expression > and sf, chords of 2, 3, and 4 notes can be inserted into the melodic progression by the instruments of the string quartet, each playing a single note; short notes in the wood-wind may also be used as well as a chain of three or four grace notes, in the form of a scale, either in strings or wood-wind. These unstressed notes (anacrusis), generally written very small, form a kind of upward glide, the downward direction being less common. As a rule they are connected to the main note by a slur. In the strings they should not lead up to chords of three or four notes, as this would be awkward for the bow.

Professor Belkin Comments: This method of creating accents, with upbeat grace notes is a commonplace with the snare drum. However it is also useful for winds and strings. It gives great momentum to the following note.

Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:



No. 254. The Tsar's Bride, Section 142 - anacrusis in the strings.

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No. 255. Sheherazade, 2nd Movement, Section C - short pizz. chords.

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Other References :
Sheherazade, 2nd Movement, Section P- short wind chords (cf. Ex. 19)