The Classical Concerto
The Classical concerto (c. 1750–1830)
since1750 the concerto has found its chief place in society not in church or at
court but in the concert hall. Some of the excitement it could arouse in classical
musical life is recaptured in the Mozart family letters. Mozart’s introduction of a
new piano concerto (K. 456?) in a Vienna theatre concert was reported by his
father on February 16, 1785:
. . . your brother played a glorious concerto, . . . I was sitting [close] . . . and had
the great pleasure of hearing so clearly all the interplay of the instruments ...
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A classical concerto is a three-movement work for an instrumental soloist and orchestra.
It combines the soloist's virtuosity and interpretive abilities with the orchestra's wide range
of tone colour and dynamics. Emerging from this encounter is a contrast of ideas and
sound that is deamatic and satisfying.
The classical love of balance can be seen in the concerto, wher soloist and orchestra are
equally important. Solo instruments in classical concertos include violin, cello, clarinet,
bassoon, trumpet, horn and piano. Concertos can last anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes,
and it has three movements: (1)fast, (2)slow, and (3)fast. A concerto has no minuet or
scherzo.
Int the first movement and sometimes in the last movement, there is a special
unaccompanied showpiece for the soloist, the cadenza. The soloist will be able to display
virtuosity by playing dazzling scale passages and broken chords. Themes of the
movement are varied and presentd in new keys. At the end of a cadenza, the soloist
plays a long trill followed by a chord that meshes with the re-entrance of the orchestra.
Cadenzas are improvised by the soloist.
Classical concertos
Further information: Mozart Piano Concertos
The concertos of Bach’s sons are perhaps the best links between those of the Baroque period and those of
Mozart. C.P.E. Bach’s keyboard concertos contain some brilliant soloistic writing. Some of them have
movements that run into one another without a break, and there are frequent cross-movement thematic
references. Mozart, as a boy, made arrangements for harpsichord and orchestra of three sonata movements
by Johann Christian Bach. By the time he was twenty, he was able to write concerto ritornelli that gave the
orchestra admirable opportunity for asserting its character in an exposition with some five or six sharply
contrasted themes, before the soloist enters to elaborate on the material. He wrote one concerto each for
flute, oboe (later rearranged for flute and known as Flute Concerto No. 2), clarinet, and bassoon, four for horn,
a Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra, and a Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra. They all
exploit the characteristics of the solo instrument brilliantly. His five violin concertos, written in quick
succession, show a number of influences, notably Italian and Austrian. Several passages have leanings
towards folk music, as manifested in Austrian serenades. However, it was in his twenty-three original piano
concertos that he excelled himself. It is conventional to state that the first movements of concertos from the
Classical period onwards follow the structure of sonata form. Mozart, however, treats sonata form in his
concerto movements with so much freedom that any broad classification becomes impossible. For example,
some of the themes heard in the exposition may not be heard again in subsequent sections. The piano, at its
entry, may introduce entirely new material. There may even be new material in the so-called recapitulation
section, which in effect becomes a free fantasia. Towards the end of the first movement, and sometimes in
other movements too, there is a traditional place for an improvised cadenza. The slow movements may be
based on sonata form or abridged sonata form, but some of them are romances. The finale is sometimes a
rondo, or even a theme with variations.
Aspects of the topic concerto are discussed in the following places at Britannica.
history and development
Baroque and Classical periods (in Western music: The sonata and concerto)
Beethoven (in Ludwig van Beethoven (German composer): Structural innovations)
Brahms (in Johannes Brahms (German composer): Aims and achievements)
counterpoint (in counterpoint (music): The Baroque period)
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/213672/mu
sical-form/27882/The-sonata#ref396056
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