Stringed Instruments doubling in Octaves
a) Violins I and Violins II in octaves.
This is a very common process used for all kinds of melodic figures in particular those in the very high register. It has already been stated that the E string diminishes in fullness of tone the higher it ascends from the limits of the soprano voice. Moreover, melodic figures in the very high register of the violins become too isolated from the rest of the ensemble unless doubled in octaves. Such doubling secures expression, fullness of tone and firmness of timbre. The reader will find numerous examples of violins in octaves; a few are added below, chiefly broad and expressive phrases.
Professor Belkin Comments: RK touches on a larger issue here: extreme registers should be used ALONE relatively infrequently. They are quickly tiring to the ear, and unless doubled in the main (central) register via octave doubling tend to be perceived as completely separate planes of tone.
Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:
No. 22. The Tsar’s Bride, Section 166 – Violins I and Violins II in octaves. Cantabile, piano.
No. 23. The Legend of Tsar Saltan, Section 227 – Violins I and Violins II in octaves.
Melody with reiterated notes, dolce, express. e cantabile.
No. 24. The Christmas Night , Section 210. Violins I and Violins II doubling the melody in octaves.
1st Violins play the melody in the upper octave, and the 2nd Violins can play the octave below. In this way the predominant higher notes will be diminished, the melody will acquire a clearer and more pleasant sound, and the expressive tone quality of the lower octave will be strengthened.
No. 25. Ivan the Terrible, Act III, Section 63 – Violins I and Violins II in octaves.
• The Tsar’s Bride, Section 206. Cantabile, mezzo-piano; the lower part is in unison with the soprano voice;
• Sheherazade, 3rd movement, Section J , Cantabile in G major; dolce and cantabile (the same as Ex. 12);
• Sadko, Symphonic tableau, Section 12, Violins I and II (muted) in octaves. A short dance phrase pianissimo, given first to the violas, theta to the violins (cf. Ex. 6);
* The Golden Cockerel, Section 156;
* The Golden Cockerel, Section 165;
* Antar, 1st movement, Section 11;
b) Violins divisi in octaves.
First and second violins divided in two parts and progressing in octaves will deprive the melody of resonance, since the number of players is diminished by half, the consequences being especially noticeable in small orchestras. Nevertheless the method can be used occasionally when the strings are doubled by the wood-wind, and when the melody falls in a sufficiently high register.
Professor Belkin Comments: … Or when a deliberately thin and transparent effect is desired, for example when the divisi line is NOT meant to be in the foreground.
Score References & Examples Using GPO:
No. 26. Snegourotchka, Section 238 – Chorus of Flowers – 2 Solo Violins and Violins divisi octaves. Pianissimo cantabile in two octaves, progressing with the women’s chorus (Sopr. I), and given out earlier by the Engish horn. The flute and all the 1st Violins except two play in the lower octave, the two solo violins, only, in the upper. The solo desk will be sufficiently prominent owing to the general pianissimo.
• Snegourotchka, Section 166. Violins I and Violins II divisi in octaves. mezzo-forte espressivo. Partial
Doubling of Coupava’s song (Sopr.) One flute and one oboe double the melody.
c) Violins and Violas in octaves.
First and second Violins progressing with the Violas in octaves is a common method, especially when the lower octave in the melody happens to go below the open G string on the violins.
Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:
No.27. Snegourotchka, Section 231 – Violins 1 and Violins II in unison, doubled an octave below by the Violas.
No. 28. Snegourotchka, Section 137, finale of Act I –Violins I, doubled an octave below by the Violins II in unison with Violas. Cantible phrase, transmitted in flute and clarinet (cf. Ex. 8).
• Snegourotchka, Section 137, finale of Act I.Violins 1 and Violins in unison, doubled an octave below by the Violas. Quick Melody, piano.
The distribution: Violins 1 and Violins in unison, doubled an octave below by the Violas; and, Violins 1, doubled an octave below by the Violins II in unison with Violas – are not exactly the same. The first should be used to obtain greater brilliance in the upper part, the second to give the lower part a fuller and more cantabile quality.
d) Violas and Violoncellos in octaves.
Of special use when the Violins are otherwise employed.
* Legend of Kitesh, Section 59, Violas and Cellos in octaves, doubled by bassoons.
• Sheherazade, 3rd movement – Violins I and Cellos in octaves. Cantabile mezzo-forte appassionato (cf. Ex. 1);
• Pan Voyevoda, Section134 , nocturne “Moonlight” – Violins I and Cellos in octaves.. Cantibile melody given first to ‘cellos alone (cf. Ex. 7);
• The May Night, Act III Le, 0,51 �All Violins and Cellos in octaves. A forte melodic phrase.
• Snegourotchka, Section 9.Fairy Spring’s Aria
• cf. Example No. 24: Sadko, Section 207.
• Snegourotchka, Sections 58, 60 , 65 and 68 . The same melody, played twice pianissimo, not doubled, then twice (mezzo-forte and forte), doubled in the wood-wind;
• Mlada, Act II, the beginning of the Lithuanian dance. A lively piano theme;
• Ivan the Terrible, Act II, Section 28.