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  • Orchestral Music: A Handbook
  • Joseph Boonin
Orchestral Music: A Handbook. 4th ed.By David Daniels. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2005. [xiii, 617 p. ISBN 0-8108-5674-3. $65.] Indexes, appendices.

There is a readily definable cadre of professionals who deal extensively with orchestral music. These include conductors, librarians, orchestra managers, program annotators, personnel administrators, and contractors. All of these groups have two basic questions about an unfamiliar work: What is its duration and what is its scoring? Daniels's work provides some answers to the former question and, in virtually every instance, a full answer to the latter.

Orchestral Musicis appearing here in its fourth edition. The original edition (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1972) is barely half the size of the present volume and far less comprehensive or reliable. Each succeeding edition has provided an increasingly broad scope of repertoire included as well as greater degrees of accuracy. This fourth edition benefits greatly by the incorporation of data from the Orchestra Library Information Service (OLIS) compiled in the mid 1980s by Marshall Burlingame now principal librarian of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The present edition is published in conjunction with the announcement of a searchable Web application ( from the same publisher. The preface states that this will be "with periodic updating" (p. vii); however as of early December 2005 the Web site was not yet active. In addition, the information is being provided as an option within the orchestral management software suite Orchestra Professional Administration Systems (OPAS) from Fine Arts Software. Mr. Daniels has traveled a long road in the 33 years since the appearance of this work. He has availed himself of the counsel of some of this country's most able and best-known orchestra librarians and with the present edition, Orchestral Musichas come to maturity.

Timings are funny things. The only accurate timings of orchestral music are those taken of actual performances or, in our own time, specific recordings. Not only does every performance or recording vary in duration to a certain extent but such varied practices as cuts taken and repeats observed and omitted have a significant impact on the overall time. One has but to recall the old New York Philharmonic set of 78 rpm discs of Beethoven's Eroica symphony. Although not played at an excessively slow tempo, Willem Mengelberg's decision to take the repeat in the first movement has made this one of the longest [End Page 949]timings of any Eroica. The duration timings that Daniels provides are, in his own words, "reasonable approximations" (p. viii). Comparing them to other sources, they are indeed approximations and entirely reasonable. A great asset of the timings included in the present volume is the breakdown of the durations of individual movements in multi-movement works. It must be remembered that those who will use this book the most and receive the greatest benefit from it are more concerned with a duration accurate to within five minutes rather than one that is accurate to within five (or even thirty-five) seconds.

It is, however, in the listings of orchestral forces that Daniels achieves his greatest strength and it is in this area that the book will prove most valuable to all of those groups of readers described in the opening paragraph. Indicating string distribution is simple. Winds and brass, however, occur in a multiplicity of quantities, doublings, and even tripling (i.e., three instruments played by one musician). It has long been the failing of so many reference sources, including earlier editions of Orchestral Music,that the distribution of the woodwind, brass and percussion forces has been described inadequately. Daniels, however, makes it perfectly clear which instruments are doubled and which require an additional player. This information alone makes the book extremely valuable. The percussion listings do provide both the number of players and the various pieces of hardware involved. Quite sensibly, there is no attempt to ascribe instruments to players as this is often determined by individual situations.

The list of works is extensive and does include a disproportionate number of contemporary American composers. Of course, one can justify this by remembering that this is an American work...


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