Leah E. Bonas

Date of Award






Degree Type

Bachelor of Music


Schwob School of Music

First Advisor

Andree Martin

Second Advisor

Boris Abramov

Third Advisor

Stephanie Patterson


During the evolution of the orchestra from 1600-1900, the concertmaster remained a key leadership figure who held great influence over the ensemble. This paper examines the concertmaster’s changing role in the orchestra throughout the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras and studies the examples of exceptional concertmasters from each era, giving further historical insight into the lives and duties in of these orchestral leaders and musicians. During the Baroque era, when ensembles lacked conductors, the concertmaster shared control of the orchestra with the keyboard-player or time-beater. During the Classical Era, the concertmaster gained a larger role in the orchestra and often acted simultaneously as conductor, manager, and director. The specific duties of a concertmaster outlined in numerous treatises included unifying articulation, bowings, and ornamentation in the orchestra. In the Romantic era, significant changes in musical compositions and the structure of the orchestra led to the need for an autonomous conductor. As a result, the concertmaster was reduced from his previous role to become an assistant to the conductor and interpreter for the orchestra. His focus turned to the uniformity of the string section and the increasing number of concertmaster solos. In light of the changing orchestral environment, the concertmasters of the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras proved to be experienced musicians, effective teachers, and respected leaders.

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