Saturday, 3 October 2015

Evidence from Sir Henry Wood's Autobiography

I have been reading Sir Henry Wood's autobiography, My Life of Music, and recently came across a revealing passage:

The book was published in 1938 and so this is compelling evidence that violins were still predominantly antiphonally seated in orchestras at this time, given his reference to "so few conductors" agreeing with his own "disposition".

I am slightly perplexed by his description of the placement of cellos opposite basses, however, as I can't picture what he meant by this. Perhaps this photograph of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra from 1936 illustrates his point:

Here it can be seen that the principal cellos are located centrally while the double basses are situated to the right of stage (conductor's view). This is the nearest to opposite placement of cellos and double basses I can find evidence of or imagine. If anyone is able to shed any light on this, I'd be most grateful.

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