Insights from a second violin, inside the architecture of the music

Posted on: May 23, 2017

In an interview posted Monday (5/22) at public radio station WRTI.org (Pennsylvania), host Susan Lewis speaks with Philadelphia Orchestra violinist Paul Arnold “about the critical, but often unsung role of the second violins. Paul Arnold: It is quite a choir of an instrument.… The violin makes use of extremely small muscle groups. What we’re doing is such a subtle, almost microscopic parameter, the littlest changes in length and thickness of the neck, or the bouts or tables of the instrument, make a huge difference in the way the instrument responds.… Lewis: He’s also a member of the Orchestra’s second violins—inner voices that often provide harmonic and rhythmic texture—in contrast to the first violins, which play the higher lines. Arnold: As a middle-voice player, it’s a tremendous insight into how the music is constructed—you’re very inside of the architecture of the music. I have played first violin at length in this orchestra, and … I seem to know a different sinewy aspect to the music.… Nobody knows the violin. It is constantly defining who we are as individuals because there’s no limit in how far you can go.”

Posted May 23, 2017

Photo of Paul Arnold by Jessica Griffin / Philadelphia Orchestra