What is a Concerto?

A concerto is a musical composition featuring a solo instrument accompanied by an orchestra.  It is usually divided into movements (movements are like the chapters of a book) that often have different moods and tempos (the speed of the music.)  A typical concerto has 3 movements, in a fast-slow-fast structure.  

Here are two of my favorite violin concertos:

American violinist Joshua Bell plays the violin concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.  (The Beethoven is in three movements.  They are titled 1.  Allegro ma non troppo – this means, loosely, “Fast but not too much.” 2.  Larghetto, which means “moderately slowly” and 3. Rondo which is a musical form where the melody comes back over and over again, alternating with other musical digressions.”)

German violinist Frank Peter Zimmerman plays the violin concerto by Johannes Brahms with the NHK Symphony orchestra in Japan.   Also in three movements:  1. Allegro non troppo 2. Adagio (slowly, or “at ease’)  3. Allegro giocoso,ma non troppo vivace – Poco più presto
(cheerful, playful, but not too quick.)

Concertos have been written for lots of different instruments, not just the violin.  Here is one of my favorite cello concertos, by the composer Edward Elgar with cellist, Jacqueline Du Pre.

Listen to more violin concertos by Max Bruch, Felix Mendelssohn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart