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The concertmaster is the part leader of the group of 1st  violins standing or seated outside the first music stand in an orchestra . He follows the conductor in the hierarchy of an orchestra.


Until the beginning of the 19th century, this musician led the orchestra while playing from the 1st desk of the 1st violins while playing with clear signs, looks or inserts. The colloquial term “play the first fiddle”, in the sense of “setting the tone, taking center stage”, comes from this time. To this day, this type of orchestral direction is still popular with some chamber orchestras (e.g. the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields ).

The expansion of the orchestra gradually resulted in the division of this management function into Kapellmeister ( conductor ) and concertmaster. In some orchestras the section leaders of the 2nd violins and cellos are also referred to as concert masters. They lead their respective string section, but do not have the full responsibility of a first concertmaster.


After the welcome applause, the concert master calls on people to sit down and tune in, initiate applause from the orchestra for soloists and conductors and at the end of the concert gives the signal to leave the stage. Musically Primus Inter Pares of all string leaders, the solo winds, solo harp and solo timpani, he interacts with both the conductor and the other orchestral soloists during rehearsals. In order to transform the sound ideas of the conductor into instrumentally practicable movement sequences, he bears a great deal of responsibility when making decisions about phrasing , line types , legato bindings , articulation , volume and fingerings . In the performances, the 1st concertmaster is primarily responsible for leading the 1st violins, while communicating with the other solo players, as well as interacting with the conductor to support his impulses, playing violin solos, etc. Concert masters bring social skills to the table, take responsibility for their orchestra internally and externally, support new colleagues, actively work on solving problems and represent the orchestra in an exemplary manner.

In larger opera, symphony and radio orchestras there are 1st concertmaster, deputy 1st concertmaster and 2nd concertmaster. At all concerts or opera performances, two concert masters are present at the first desk, with the higher ranking one always playing outside. In exposed orchestras, two first concert masters play simultaneously on the first desk on particularly important occasions. The person currently sitting outside is always in charge.

At concerts in France, Italy, Spain, Great Britain and the USA, as a reminiscence of the old distribution of competencies between concertmaster and bandmaster, the custom that the first concertmaster only enters the stage when the orchestra has already taken its seat, and is welcomed separately. This is now also observed in Germany.

Known 1st concert master (selection)


  • Christoph-Hellmut Mahling : Orchestra. Organization. [Section 2] Kapellmeister, concertmaster, music director . In: Ludwig Finscher (Hrsg.): The music in past and present . Sachteil Volume 7, 1996, Col. 822-824
  • Ottmar Schreiber: Orchestra and orchestral practice in Germany between 1780 and 1850 (= New German Research. Volume 6). Junker and Dünnhaupt, Berlin 1938 (Reprint: Olms, Hildesheim 1978, ISBN 3-487-06657-2 ), p. 79 f. ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  • Rainer Erd: Art as work. Organizational problems of an opera orchestra. In: Jürgen Gerhards (Ed.): Sociology of Art: Producers, Mediators and Recipients. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1997, ISBN 3-531-13009-9 , pp. 143–170, here: pp. 158–160 ( limited preview in the Google book search).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Christoph-Hellmut Mahling: Orchester , MGG, Sachteil, Volume 7, 1996, Sp. 822-824.