An orchestra is a large instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which combines instruments from different families, including bowed string instruments such as the violin, viola, cello, and double bass, brass instruments such as the horn, trumpet, trombone and tuba, woodwinds such as the flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon, and percussion instruments such as the timpani, bass drum, triangle, snare drum and cymbals, each grouped in sections. Other instruments such as the piano and celesta may sometimes appear in a fifth keyboard section or may stand alone, as may the concert harp and, for performances of some modern compositions, electronic instruments.
A full-size orchestra may sometimes be called a symphony orchestra or philharmonic orchestra. The actual number of musicians employed in a given performance may vary from seventy to over one hundred musicians, depending on the work being played and the size of the venue. The term chamber orchestra (and sometimes concert orchestra) usually refers to smaller-sized ensembles of about fifty musicians or fewer. Orchestras that specialise in the Baroque music of, for example, Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel, or Classical repertoire, such as that of Haydn and Mozart, tend to be smaller than orchestras performing a Romantic music repertoire, such as the symphonies of Johannes Brahms.
The typical orchestra grew in size throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, reaching a peak with the large orchestras (of as many as 120 players) called for in the works of Richard Wagner, and later, Gustav Mahler. Orchestras are usually led by a conductor who directs the performance with movements of the hands and arms, often made easier for the musicians to see by use of a conductor's baton. The conductor unifies the orchestra, sets the tempo and shapes the sound of the ensemble. The conductor also prepares the orchestra by leading rehearsals before the public concert, in which the conductor provides instructions to the musicians on their interpretation of the music being performed.
This post is part of the Wordless Wednesday meme,
and also part of the ABC Wednesday meme.
Here is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, playing 'Jupiter' from Gustav Holst's 'The Planets' suite, led by maestro Cristian Măcelaru, guest conductor.