In Mozart’s day, when orchestras were small by modern standards, he boasted in a letter of hearing one “with 40 violins” play a symphony of his. Berlioz fantasized about an ensemble with 467 players. And even if it is a bit hyperbolic, there is a reason Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 8 became known as his “Symphony of a Thousand.”
But as some American orchestras struggle in the post-downturn economy, they are taking a page from the corporate world and thinking smaller: They are downsizing, shedding some full-time positions while making up the difference with less costly part-time musicians.
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