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Asking about recommendation on scores to study

Luis Hernández

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Hi, I know there is expert people here.

I want to study some big score to learn orchestration. I'm interested in romantic-postromantic and modern orchestration.

Any suggestions?

Perhaps Mahler is too much to start. I thought about Tchaikovsky's Pathethique Symphony.... I love it and I've listened to it many times...

Holst, The Planets?


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16 minutes ago, Luis Hernández said:

I know there is expert people here.

Definately not me, but hey, here I am.

I guess it really depends on what tendency exactly do you want to learn. It would be very different to study Ravel and Holst, for example, as they have come across with very different results.

Perhaps it would be good to study extracts you like from a wider range of pieces instead of going too deep into one right away.

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I think Mahler is an awful composer to study particularly for orchestration!! I'm a great fan of Bruckner and he's worth study if you've time and inclination but his oeuvres are BIG! I NEVER bracket Bruckner with Mahler as so many people do. The 1st movement of his 9th is worth a listen and study.

I'd honestly start with Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique. He was a great orchestrator (he knew it too and wrote a book about it). Then there's Rimsky-Korsakov (Scheherezade). Elgar's Symphony 2 - and if integrating brass in full tutti is your quest, Walton's Symphony 1. Both are quite modern if tonal. But as you suggested yourself, Tchaikovsky's Pathetique, a beautiful work. 

Stravinsky's Rite is a big score, modern and modal rather than romantic but it'll take a bit of time.

For Strings scoring, Schoenberg's Verklaerte Nacht or Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.  

Good luck. 



Edited by Quinn
thank God for an edit button.
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I am self-taught, so I have not had a great deal of instruction on this topic, but the most helpful book I've read on this subject is Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Principles of Orchestration. He uses orchestration excerpts from his own works as examples, so you won't have to peruse through an entire score to understand what he means by a certain passage. The style is Romantic, of course. You could always use it as a companion to the score to Scheherazade (or Capriccio Espanol, which I think is better orchestrated). Hope that helps.

Edit: Here is a link to the text.


Edited by Noah Brode
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1 hour ago, Luis Hernández said:

@Quinn It seems you don't like Mahler, I do. But I also love Bruckner and I never thought his style is linked with Mahler. Although both had wagnerian influences.

I think I'll try Bruckner... 7th symphony? 


An excellent choice. There are several editions (mixed up with politics and the 3rd Reich). I've preferred the Haas but Nowak's is popular. Nowak's basis for editing the work ultimately proved a bit dodgy...the important thing is that if you require a recording to make sure it matches the score! (You probably know this but just in case anyone else becomes interested....Listeners/students approaching Bruckner for the first time are faced with the problem of editions, authenticity, sources and things.)


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Lots of people cite Ravel and Berlioz as the orchestration masters but I always like to throw in Respighi into that post-Romantic mix. 

As for your modern approaches, Lutoslawski's consistent patterns are very well-known, as are Stockhausen's opera cycles and multi-orchestra works. 
I might suggest adding Saariaho in there if not mostly for her careful and specific timbral markings. 

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