Plucked orchestra

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A plucked orchestra or mandolin orchestra is an orchestra that consists of mandolins and other plucked instruments .


The usual line-up of a plucked orchestra is:

All of the instrument groups are multiple, with the double bass often being an exception. The double bass can also be completely absent, in which case the voice is taken over by an acoustic or electric bass guitar .

Seating order of the players of a plucked orchestra
Alternative seating arrangements for the players of a plucked orchestra when performing works with two equal mandolin voices

Typical seating arrangements for a plucked orchestra are shown in the pictures. More recently, however, other seating arrangements have also been observed, for example when performing spatial sound compositions.


Renaissance and early baroque

Lute ensemble (17th century)

Michael Praetorius describes a lute choir in his Syntagma Musicum in 1619 , which, in addition to the plucked instruments of the time such as theorbo and lute, also includes harpsichords and spinets . He recommends a bass violin to reinforce the bass. He reports on the accompaniment of a motet by such an ensemble: "Which give an excellent, splendid / wonderful resonance / so / that almost everything in the church has wrinkled because of the sound of the many strings".

20th century

In Germany , until the second half of the 20th century, mostly musical amateurs played in plucked orchestras. Many plucked orchestras arose in the 1920s from the workers' or migrant bird movements . From the 1950s onwards, the composer Konrad Wölki contributed significantly to the musicological recognition of the plucked orchestra.

Compositions for plucked orchestra

In addition to works by Konrad Wölki, works by Kurt Schwaen , Klaus Wüsthoff , Claudio Mandonico or Yasuo Kuwahara are often performed at classical concerts by plucked orchestras . There are arrangements for plucked orchestra of many works for other types of orchestra; Works for string orchestra or string quartet can often be taken over without arrangement.

Organization of the German plucked orchestra

In Germany, most orchestras are club orchestras . In addition, there are Landeszupforchester in the individual federal states, which make music at a high musical level, as well as Landesjugendzupforchester. Most German plucked orchestras are members of an umbrella organization, the Bund deutscher Zupfmusiker .

The German Plucked Orchestra was directed by Siegfried Behrend from 1968 to 1990 .

Ermanno Briner writes in Reclam's musical instrument guide ( Reclam-Verlag 1998, ISBN 3-15-010436-X ) critically about the role of the Zupforchestervereine:

“Apart from the fact that today the taste has generally become a bit more demanding and one also prefers to listen to the radio instead of taking the trouble to make music oneself, apart from the chirping and tremolo one that is difficult to bear for today's ears in the long term (often even slightly out of tune) mandolin orchestras, earlier, in times not yet dominated by ether waves, mandolin orchestras, such as brass music, had an eminent cultural significance: they enabled the promotion of instrumental playing and the opening up of even remote communities for music. "


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