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What Are the Different Types of Concertos?

Concertos are vibrant showcases of musical dialogue, typically featuring a soloist and orchestra. They come in various forms, from the Baroque concerto grosso to the solo concerto, where instruments like the piano or violin take center stage. Each type offers a unique interplay of harmony and virtuosity. Discover how these styles create unforgettable concert experiences—what will resonate with you?
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The types of concertos are broken up primarily by style, and by the musical instruments involved. Concertos run the gamut from classical compositions such as those of Mozart to modern variations, and they can include a wide variety of instruments. As a general rule, you don't need to understand the types of concertos to appreciate and enjoy this musical form, although a deeper understanding of the styles and their history can provide you with some interesting tidbits of information.

A concerto is a musical composition which is designed for a solo instrument and an orchestra, although some types of concertos include more than one instrument as the focus of the piece. Most concertos are performed in three movements, allowing the piece to develop and play with a theme, and to showcase the skills of the musicians and the beauty of the instruments involved.

The violin concerto is a popular form of classical music.
The violin concerto is a popular form of classical music.

There are four main styles of concertos: baroque, classical, romantic, and modern. The form of the concerto developed during the baroque period, when composers began to develop the concerto grosso, a composition in which the music was passed back and forth between a small group of instruments, known as a concertino, and a larger orchestra, known as the ripieno. After laying the groundwork during the baroque peiod, composers branched out in the classical period, developing concertos for specific instruments alone, along with pieces which integrated plays on various themes.

Some concertos are written for pianos.
Some concertos are written for pianos.

Romantic concertos tend to be more florid and complex, with incredibly ornate and embellished music. The violin concerto in particular flourished during the romantic period, thanks to the flexibility of this instrument and the many beautiful ways in which it can be used. Types of concertos which are considered modern range in style, from classically-inspired pieces to more difficult avant-garde works which demand a lot of work on the part of the listener and the musicians.

Mozart wrote classical concertos.
Mozart wrote classical concertos.

In addition to looking at types of concertos by style, it is also possible to divide concertos up by the types of instrument used, since the focus of a concerto is typically a single instrument. Concertos may be written for piano, violin, viola, flute, cello, bass, and so forth, and in a double concerto, the focus may be on two instruments, instead of a solo instrument. Double concertos have a full, rich sound which cannot be accomplished with one instrument alone.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a concerto and how does it differ from other classical music forms?

Concertos may be written for flutes.
Concertos may be written for flutes.

A concerto is a musical composition typically composed for an instrumental soloist and orchestra. It stands out from other classical forms by featuring a dialogue between one or more soloists and a larger ensemble, allowing the soloist's virtuosity to shine. Concertos usually adhere to a three-movement structure: fast-slow-fast, providing a dynamic and contrasting musical journey.

Can you name and describe the different types of concertos?

Violin concertos are typically written for a soloist, who is accompanied by an orchestra.
Violin concertos are typically written for a soloist, who is accompanied by an orchestra.

There are several types of concertos, each with unique characteristics. The Solo Concerto focuses on a single soloist accompanied by an orchestra. The Concerto Grosso features a small group of soloists, known as the concertino, contrasted against the full ensemble, or ripieno. The Double Concerto (or Concerto for Two) highlights two soloists, while the Triple Concerto showcases three. The Piano Concerto and Violin Concerto are categorized by their solo instrument, each with a rich repertoire in classical music.

What is a Concerto Grosso and how did it evolve over time?

The Concerto Grosso is a Baroque-era concerto type that contrasts a small group of soloists (concertino) with the full orchestra (ripieno). It evolved during the 17th and 18th centuries, with composers like Corelli and Handel contributing significantly to its development. Over time, the Concerto Grosso gave way to the Solo Concerto, which became more popular in the Classical period due to the rising emphasis on individual virtuosity.

How has the concerto form changed from the Baroque to the modern era?

From the Baroque to the modern era, the concerto has undergone significant transformation. In the Baroque period, the Concerto Grosso was prevalent, emphasizing the interplay between groups of instruments. The Classical era favored the Solo Concerto, highlighting individual artistry. Romantic concertos expanded the emotional range and technical demands on soloists. In the 20th century, concertos explored new harmonies, forms, and collaborations with a variety of instruments, reflecting contemporary musical innovations.

What are some of the most famous concertos and their composers?

Some of the most renowned concertos include Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons," a set of violin concertos; Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, known as the "Emperor"; Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major; and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2. These masterpieces are celebrated for their melodic beauty, technical challenges, and the emotional depth they convey, securing their composers' places in the pantheon of great classical music creators.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MusicalExpert researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MusicalExpert researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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    • The violin concerto is a popular form of classical music.
      By: kirvinic
      The violin concerto is a popular form of classical music.
    • Some concertos are written for pianos.
      By: scalaphotography
      Some concertos are written for pianos.
    • Mozart wrote classical concertos.
      By: Georgios Kollidas
      Mozart wrote classical concertos.
    • Concertos may be written for flutes.
      By: xixinxing
      Concertos may be written for flutes.
    • Violin concertos are typically written for a soloist, who is accompanied by an orchestra.
      By: zea_lenanet
      Violin concertos are typically written for a soloist, who is accompanied by an orchestra.