Main Period: Classical, Romantic


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Procession of the religious orders of Antwerp - detail (1616) Denis van Alsloot, Museo del Prado, Madrid

A musical piece designated for a soloist or soloists and an orchestra. The concerto consists of three movements. The first is fast, and usually in the sonata form. The second movement is slow and poetic, singing-like, and the third one is fast, again, often in the rondo-sonata or sonata-variations. At the end of the first movement there is a cadenza, where the soloist displays his virtuoso abilities and sometimes even improvises (without any pre-written notes).
In the past, that is in the Baroque, the more common form of concerto was the concerto grosso, in which a small group of instrumentalists played versus the entire orchestra ("Soli" versus "Ripieno"). Bach wrote many Concerti GrossiConcerto in Dm for 2 violins / Bach, among which is the Brandenburg ConcertiPart 1 from the Brandenburg Concerto No.2 in F, BWV.1047 - J.S. Bach. Handel also composed 12 serious, profound Concerti Grossi.
In the classical period the concerto becomes personal - The concerto solo. Composers place the single soloist to play against the orchestra. Haydn wrote many concertiCello Concerto - Haydn, among which is the excellent Trumpet Concerto, yet Mozart was the one who shaped the classic concertoHorn Concerto / MozartConcerto in Bb for Bassoon, K.191 - Mozart - Mozart. He wrote about 50 concerti for different solo instruments, and the last ten Piano Concerti are particularly good. Piano Concerto no. 212nd Movement from the Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K467 - MozartPiano Concerto No. 21 - Mozart is mostly known for the slow movement used in the motion picture "Elvira Madigan". His Clarinet Concerto and Violin Concerto no. 3 are also considered among the best of his work.
The concerto suited well the Romantic period, an era that favored the individual and his personal expression. As a person who represented the Romantic period in both art and life, Beethoven composed special, profound concerti. His Piano Concerto no. 5 "The Emperor" and Piano Concerto no. 3 are some of the best in the history of music. They include a first movement that is "heavier" than what was customary before. Beethoven's Violin Concerto is also one of the summits of this genre, although it geniusly integrates the solo violinist in the orchestra, rather than demonstrates his capability.
Mendelssohn wrote the E minor Violin ConcertoViolin Concerto in E minor - MendelssohnViolin Concerto in E minor - Mendelssohn, of the favourites in orchestral repertory, and Liszt wrote the spectacular Piano Concerto no. 1. In his Violin Concerto and diametrically opposed characterized Piano Concerti, Brahms also represents the Romantic concerto at its finestPianist Arthur Rubinstein plays Brahms's Concerto with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Examples of concerto parts

Concerto for Piccolo in C
by Vivaldi
Allegro aperto from Flute Concerto in D (K.314)
by Mozart
Piano Concerto No.2 in Cm, Op.18 (movement 2)
by Rachmaninov

Famous Concertos
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Opus 73, "Emperor" - Beethoven (1810)
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major K467 - Mozart (1785)
Violin Concerto in E minor Opus 64 - Mendelssohn (1844)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor - Rachmaninov (1901)
Cello Concerto - Elgar (1919)
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, Opus 61 - Beethoven (1806)
Concerto for Orchestra Sz116 - Bartók (1943)
Concerto for Two Violins and Strings in D minor, BWV1043 - J. S. Bach (1723)
Concierto de Aranjuez - Rodrigo (1939)
Brandenburg Concertos, BWV 1046-51 - J. S. Bach (until 1721)


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