WHAT IS A CONCERTO?
A concerto is a musical composition for a solo instrument or instruments accompanied by an orchestra or concert band. The soloist and the ensemblealternate between episodes of opposition and cooperation. There are also double concertos, which feature more than one soloist. Concerti originated in the Baroque Period, and have developed over time.
The concerto began to take its modern shape in the Late- Baroque Period, known as the Concerto Grosso. The Baroque concerto was mainly composed for string and wind instruments. The only concerti for keyboard were for organ and harspichord. An example of the Baroque concerot is Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5.
The classical concerto was typically broken into three movements, usually alternating in tempo. The first and third movements were typically faster while the second movement had a slower tempo.
The first movement is usually the longest movement and uses a variant of the sonata form. An example of the Classical concerto is Mozart’s Concerto for 2 Pianos.
During the Romantic Period, concerti showed more virtuosity than ever before. In addition, many 20th century concerti actually belong to the late Romantic school. Examples of Romantic concerti are Beethoven’s piano concerti and Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B minor.
In the first decades of the 20th century, several composers such as Debussy, Schoenberg, Bartók, Prokofiev, and Hindemith started experimenting with the way the music was written and performed. These composers and several others experimented with the use of modality, the exploration of non-western scales, atonality and dissonances. An example of a 20th century concerto is Oistrakh’s Violin Concerto in D minor.
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Below is an excerpt of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5. Look at how the flute (top line) and the principal violin (second line) cooperate and imitate each other.