12,000 Venezuelan musicians perform Tchaikovsky to set ‘world’s largest orchestra’ record
15 November 2021, 12:48 | Updated: 22 November 2021, 14:27
12,000 musicians set a new world record by performing a 12-minute long piece at a military academy in Venezuela.
Thousands of musicians were brought together on Saturday 13 November 2021 by Venezuela’s nationally financed ‘El Sistema’ music programme, whose alumni includes the legendary musical director, Gustavo Dudamel, to attempt a Guinness World Record for the ‘World’s Largest Orchestra’.
Performers ranged in age from 12 to 77, and gathered at the Venezuelan Military Academy in Caracas, Venezuela to attempt the record as part of a larger one-hour concert.
The piece in question for the record attempt was Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave, a tone poem which was written by the Romantic composer in 1876 to celebrate Russia’s intervention in the Serbo-Turkish War.
Read more: This is what a colossal orchestra of 7,500 musicians playing Dvorák sounds like
Posted by El Sistema on Sunday, November 14, 2021
To ensure the orchestra made it into the record books, the 34-year-old conductor, Andres David Ascanio, told the musicians, “If you break a string, don't stop. If you lose the score, go on by heart, but don’t stop.”
The conductor’s directions were broadcast on a giant screen, so they could be seen by the thousands of musicians who filled the military academy’s courtyard, which is framed by mountains.
During the performance, over 260 auditors from KPMG watched the performance to make sure every musician complied with the rules. These rules included not sharing instruments, and playing for at least five minutes during the score.
Just over one week after the performance, musicians received confirmation from Guinness that this performance met all of the conditions to mark a new world record for ‘World’s Largest Orchestra’.
The previous world record was set by 8,097 musicians in 2019 who performed the Russian National Anthem in a stadium in St Petersburg, Russia.
At the end of the concert, the emotion of the gargantuan performance was obvious on a number of the performers’ faces, and many raised their instruments above their heads when the piece came to its climactic conclusion.
However, some critics have questioned the reason for this emotion, and El Sistema’s motives behind the world record attempt, including Venezuelan concert pianist Gabriela Montero who described the event as “nothing more than a costly propaganda show”.
On her Facebook page Montero says, “El Sistema seeks to break the Guinness World Record by bringing together a 12,000 musician orchestra. At a time when COVID wreaks havoc in Venezuela, most of the population is unvaccinated and people starve on a $3 a month salary, to say this is tone-deaf is an understatement.
“Music, show, propaganda, entertainment and distraction above human life. It will never change.”