New York Philharmonic is short of 5 violinists

The orchestra has announced auditions for five vacancies in the second violins.

Did no-one notice they were running low?

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  • I’m not a musician, but forgive me, I thought all violinists in an orchestra were of the same ability and just assigned 1st or 2nd violin status by the music director. Is there really a distinct audition for a 2nd violinist?

    • They are different sections (with separate lines in the score) and have different roles in the orchestra. It’s not a question of being “good enough” to play one or the other, but it may be a question of temperament: do you want to be in the spotlight, playing all the Big Tunes, or are you more interested in being part of the inner workings? Or do you not really care, and you just want to be part of a good orchestra?

      To talk about an instrument where I have experience: there are flute players out there who won’t audition for 2nd Flute jobs. It’s a question of temperament much more than skill.

  • Maybe they’re all retiring close together, and they decided it’s more efficient to hold one audition to fill five positions than to hold multiple auditions. They should get a large group of highly-qualified players since applicants know they have 5 chances instead of one.

  • The link, to an announcement on the orchestra’s website, mentions five vacancies, but doesn’t specify first or second violin, merely ‘section violin’. The Philharmonic’s roster, as posted on line, lists the names of fourteen first violinists and fifteen second violinists, suggesting that at least some of the vacancies are in the first violin section.

    • The “violin audition master repertoire list” (a PDF downloadable from the website) includes a longish list of Violin I excerpts and one Violin II excerpt. So the winners may be expected to rotate between the sections.

        • A growing number of orchestras (albeit more at the regional level at the moment) are switching over to the rotating section violin concept, where only the principal and core non-rotating players (usually 2nd and 3rd stands) are assigned to the first and second sections, with the rest of an orchestra’s violinists rotating between the first and second violin sections.
          This seems to help boost morale among the rank-and-file members of an orchestra section, so that members have a greater variety of musical experiences each season.

    • Adding to what others have already posted, here from an older article (2009)…

      “[…] Dicterow [former concertmaster of the NY Phil] says that although all violinists auditioning for the New York Philharmonic prepare a first violin part, “violinists hired by major orchestras usually go directly into the second violin section. Our string sections have rotation, so all second violinists actually end up playing in the firsts at some point during every season — all except the frozen players, who sit on the first two stands of the seconds.”

      If there are vacancies in the first section in the N.Y. Philharmonic, there are always “in-house” auditions first. Only if no one from within the orchestra is chosen is a vacancy advertised and open to outsiders.”
      http://articles.latimes.com/2009/may/17/entertainment/ca-violins17

  • Most orchestras build up vacancies during the transition to a new music director. There is usually a couple of years where the orchestra will want to let the new person do the hiring but the new one doesn’t have a lot of schedule open yet. I do not find this many vacancies surprising in the least.

    • Managements love vacancies because they don’t have to pay the subs as much as the contracted members especially where benefits are concerned. And at the next contract negotiation, they exert pressure to make the degraded number standard.

  • I doubt it’s an issue for the NY Phil, but when UK orchestras used to advertise for five posts at once, it was usually for a very simple reason: one newspaper advertisement was considerably cheaper than five.

    • Who could that possibly be? I thought most orchestras have a principal conductor, a principal guest conductor, and a couple of other guest conductors either picked when needed or on a list as regular guests.

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