Classical Concerto

Apr 12, 2002

The Bottom Line I have found that the more I know about the structures of the music to which I am listening the more I enjoy it.

"Great pieces of music have a structure, a musical architecture. You may not be consciously aware of the structure while you're listening to a great work; but still, you instinctively feel how that work was put together. Maybe the piece follows one of the classical overarching musical patterns. Maybe it just has a music idea at the beginning that comes back at the end. In any case, we'd be hard-pressed to name a great work of music that doesn't have a coherent structure."

Classical Music for Dummies by David Pogue and Scott Speck page 9

I have found that the more I know about the structures of the music to which I am listening the more I enjoy it. I had read about the sonata, symphony, and other types of works in other books and in also in Classical Music for Dummies by Daivd Pogue and Scott Speck. Then I would listen to my favorite sonata or my favorite symphony listening carefully for all of the different parts and how they work together. It is great fun. I hope that reading the following will inspire you to read other things on the same subject and follow my example. You will be surprised at how much more you will enjoy your favorite pieces.

"A classical concerto is a three-movement work for an instrumental soloist and orchestra. It combines the soloist's and interpretive abilities with the orchestra's wide range of tone color and dynamics. . . The soloist is very much the star, and all of his or her musical talents are needed in this challenging dialogue." Music an Appreciation by Roger Kamien page 133

In a concerto the soloist and the orchestra are equally important. Between them there is a dialogue between melodic lines and themes which Mr. Kamine calls a spirit of give and take. The soloist will play will the orchestra accompanies and then the orchestra or an instrument in the orchestra takes over for awhile while the soloist accompanies. Mozart and Beethoven often wrote concertos for the piano, which they both played and which is their favorite soloist instrument. However they and many other composers wrote concertos for many different instruments such as the violin, horn, clarinet, and cello.

Like a symphony, a concerto can last 30-45 minutes. Concertos have three movements instead of the symphony's four movements. The first movement is in sonata form, but unlike the symphony the sonata form has two expositions and not just one exposition. "The opening section sets the mood for the movement and leads us to expect the soloist's entrance. The second exposition begins with the soloist's first notes. Music for the solo entry may be powerful or quiet, but its effect is dramatic because suspense has been built. Then there is the development section, which includes a modulation from the home key. Do you remember the example in the symphony section? That means if the concerto began in C major it might change to F major here. The recapitulation, cadenza, and coda will follow the development section.

The symphony doesn't have a cadenza. This is special unaccompanied showpiece for the soloist. It happens near the end of first movement and sometimes in the last movement. There is usually a pause where the orchestra sustains a dissonant cord. This causes a suspense, which announces the entry of the soloist's cadenza. The cadenza is designed to show off the virtuosity of the soloist. At one time the cadenza wasn't written in. The soloist was to improvise the cadenza. There was a fermata indicating where the cadenza was to be and the soloist just took off improvising. Mozart who was a great virtuoso on the piano didn't always write a cadenza. But after the eighteen-century the composers always wrote in the cadenza

Roger Kamien says, "The slow middle movement may take any one of several forms, but the finale is usually a quick rondo or sonata rondo. A concerto has no minuet or scherzo." Music an Appreciation by Roger Kamien page 134

The soloist of the concerto is the star. He or she doesn't have to follow conductor because the conductor follows him or her. Also the soloist plays from memory. This can lead to some really fascinating problems. Keep in mind that the orchestra reads sheet music and the conductor has the entire score in front of him. While the soloist is playing from memory, "the orchestra is chugging along like a train on its track, unable to deviate from the written music. In other words, the soloist cannot slip up. But sometimes she does--with hair-raising results. The conductor and orchestra must react with split-second timing. If the soloist skips three pages of music--which is entirely possible, because the music at the beginning of a piece often repeats at he end--the conductor must figure out where she skipped to and somehow signal to the orchestra when to come back in. If conductor and orchestra can react quickly, the audience may never even notice the mistake. But sometimes orchestra and soloist are out of sync for a minute or more. And in some cases, the conductor must resort to desperate measures to let the orchestra know where the soloist has gone. If you're ever listening to a concerto and the conductor yells, 'Skip to Letter F,' you know what happened."

Classical Music for Dummies by David Pogue and Scott Speck page 99.

Now try out your new listening skills on some of your favorite concertos.
You don't have a favorite yet? Well try
Ludwig van Beethoven's Concerto for Piano no 5 in E flat major, Opus 73 "Emperor". This is an must! Get ready to be happy! I love this concerto. I listen to often. I go through spells where I have to listen to this one every other day. I another excellent concerto to try is Johannes Brahms' Concerto No. 2 in B-flat for Piano, Op. 83. 3/4/99 . Because one of my books said that this was the greatest concerto ever written, I checked it out of my public library to hear it. I listened to it once and immediately listened to it again. What can I say? You must not miss this one. The book was right. It has four movements. Listen to the entire concerto. Those are two of my favorite piano concertos, but as I have written a concerto is can be for any instrument.
Do you like violins? Then try Felix Mendelssohn's Concerto in E Minor for Violin, Op. 64 .
In the book, Building A Classical Music Library, Bill Parker writes that this is probably the most popular of all violin concertos. He says that it is because it overflows with enchantingly beautiful melodies. Then of course there is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Concerto for Flute: No. 1 in G. Any of these can be found in the library and are well worth you time. Have fun!!

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