The most concertmasters ever packed into an orchestra?

The most concertmasters ever packed into an orchestra?


norman lebrecht

October 08, 2020

California’s Mainly Mozart festival claims to have assembled the ‘Largest Gathering of Concertmasters & Principal Players in North America’.

Players include the concertmasters of the Met orchetsra, Philadelphia, LA Phil, Nashville, Atlanta, St Paul, Indianapolis, Sarasota, Tucson and Phoenix.

Check them out here.



  • Brutally honest says:

    But they made the worst concertmaster the concertmaster.

  • Bob says:

    Ah, the legendary Philadelphoa Orchestra!

  • Gerry McDonald says:

    Sounds like America’s answer to Sid Sax’s National Philharmonic session orchestra!

  • Nick2 says:

    Sorry Norman but the headline of that release does not relate specifically to concertmasters – it is as you later state to “concertmasters and principal players”. I always thought the largest regular collection of concertmasters was for quite a number of years at the Grand Teton Music Festival orchestra. I am sure others will correct me if that is inaccurate.

    • Max Grimm says:

      While I don’t know about the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra, here in Germany the ‘largest regular collection of concertmasters’ (not counting any festival/ad hoc orchestras) is probably found in the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, which has 15 tenured musicians holding a concertmaster-titled position and vacancies for another 3.

  • caranome says:

    This is the classic name-based marketing for the unaware concert goer. It is well known in many team sports that a well-tuned team with acceptable talent that has played together for a long time frequently beat all-star teams put together for some showcase, for all the well-known reasons familiar to most readers here. Methinks it’s the same here. 99% of concert goers will not know the difference, and they’ll be happy and think they got their money’s worth.

    • Bruce says:

      Yes, but the all-star teams attract more attention and sell more tickets… therefore they are better. (eyeroll)

      As a tennis fan, I’m thinking of the Serena Williams/ Andy Murray team that attracted so much attention from the public while they were a thing; nobody noticed that they kept getting beaten in the 2nd or 3rd rounds by workaday doubles teams who were competing for 1/20th of the money.

  • Luke says:

    Sort of brings to mind the old cliche about too many cooks in the kitchen.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    This would also therefore be one of the biggest gatherings of some of the most splendid and valuable string instruments to be found. All in one place. I wonder what the insurer(s) think about that ….

    If you want to see a gathering of string players to make your mouth water, check out the article posted online by my former Fanfare colleague James North who patiently goes through the RCA Victor session sheets and sets forth the members of what was called “HIS Symphony Orchestra” for several years of Leopold Stokowski sessions back in pre-stereo days. Holy Toledo.

    But that reminds me of a story. There is a wonderful orchestra, the greatest orchestra imaginable, in heaven. The greatest players of all time sit in this orchestra. And all the greatest concertmasters from history sit in the first violin section. Franz Clement, Ferdinand David, Joachim, Arnold Rosé, Hilsberg, Burgin, Piastro, Hugo Kolberg, Druian, Mischakoff, Naoum Blinder, Michel Schwalbé, Gingold, Corigliano, Nadien, and the list goes on. All the greats from all time, all in heaven’s orchestra, and every member of the first violin section is a famous concertmaster.

    Out of respect for each other, the concertmaster’s seat itself is left vacant. Every day the greatest conductors and composers from all time come to conduct them in glorious concerts. Of course some of the greatest didn’t make it to heaven, but plenty did. So one day this orchestra of all orchestras is assembled and tuned and ready, waiting for Hector Berlioz to enter and conduct. At the very last minute, who should stride in with violin in hand but God himself, and he sits in the empty concertmaster’s chair.

    One concertmaster in the section hisses to his stand partner “and just who does He think He is? Heifetz?”

  • Paul Norwood says:

    What is this obsession with tearing down the LA Phil? Cleveland is amazing, Chicago and NY are still first class, but LA is virtuosic, especially in contemporary music… and they can play anything extremely well. They’ve come a long way from the early Zubin days…as, in my experience, has Zubin!