Viola 14

what classical piece requires the largest orchestra?

It is Havergal Brian's Symphony No. 1 "Gothic" Symphony. Mahler's Symphony No. 8 is a chamber work by comparison. Havergal Brian’s Gothic Symphony, which, besides lasting over two hours, has richly deserved its place in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest orchestral work written.

The orchestral forces for this symphony are commonly thought to be the largest employed in the symphonic canon.

The giganctic orchestra consists of:
2 Piccolos
6 Flutes (1 doubling Alto Flute)
6 Oboes (1 doubling Oboe d'amore 1 doubling Bass Oboe)
2 Cors anglais
Clarinet in E-flat
5 Clarinets in B-flat (1 doubling 2nd E-flat clarinet)
2 Basset Horns
2 Bass Clarinets in B-flat
Contrabass Clarinet in B-flat
3 Bassoons
2 Contrabassoons

8 Horns in F (see additional brass bands - total horns 16)
8 Trumpets (2 doubling Cornets in E-flat)
Bass Trumpet
3 Tenor Trombones
Bass Trombone (doubling 2nd Contrabass Trombone)
Contrabass Trombone
2 Euphoniums
2 Tubas

2 sets of Timpani
2 Bass Drums
2 (preferably 3) Snare Drums
African long drum
2 Tambourines
2 Triangles
6 pairs of large cymbals
Gong
Bird Scare
Thunder Machine
Small chains
Xylophone
Glockenspiel
Tubular Bells
Chimes in E-flat
Keyboards
Celesta

Organ

Four additional offstage Brass Bands (each consisting of)
2 Horns
2 Trumpets
2 Tenor Trombones
2 Tubas
1 set of Timpani

2 Harps (preferably more ad lib.)
20 First Violins
20 Second Violins
16 Violas
14 Cellos
12 Double Basses

In addition, about 600 voice chorus is required made up of several full choirs, children's choir, and four soloists.

(in summary: 32 wind, 24 on-stage brass, 28 off-stage brass, 6 timpanists, 18 percussion, 4 keyboards and harps, 82 strings - total orchestra c190 players, plus adult choir of min 600 [assumes largely professionals], children’s choir of 100, 4 soloists)

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