Alex Renwick wrote:
>Were mandolins common as an orchestral instrument long ago, or were they
>unique to a then Roman Catholic university?
To my knowledge (very limited, I assure) mandolins have never been
commonly used as orchestral instruments. That is to say that they are
not used instead of violins etc. They are used in the same way as string
instruments to form their own ensembles - mandolin orchestras. These
usually consist of first and second mandolins, mandolas, mandocellos,
guitars and basses. This is something relatively new for me as I am a
violinist who has convinced people I can play a mandolin and last year I
was asked to join a local mandolin ensemble here in Brisbane (Australia).
It has been something of a novelty for me but quite an enjoyable one. The
music and composers are completely unknown to me and seem to be confined
within the peoples that are continuing to play this old instrument.
All of this is not to say that it has not been used in an orchestra at all.
Thte most famous example is "Deh vieni alla finestra" from mozart's Don
Giovanni. Others to also use the mandolin orchestrally were Prokofiev,
Mahler, Schoenberg, Korngold and I am also led to believe Verdi and