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(kənchâr`tō), musical composition usually for an orchestra and a soloist or a group of soloists. In the 16th cent. concertare and concertato implied an ensemble, either vocal or instrumental. At the end of the century concerto referred to music in which two ensembles contested with each other. By 1750 it meant music contrasting a full ensemble with soloists in alternation. The form known as concerto grosso is characterized by a small group of solo players contrasted with the full orchestra. Giuseppe Torelli (1658–1709) and VivaldiVivaldi, Antonio
, 1678–1741, Italian composer. He was the greatest master of Italian baroque, particularly of violin music and the concerto grosso. Vivaldi received his early training from his father, a violinist at St.
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 established the concerto grosso in three movements, while CorelliCorelli, Arcangelo
, 1653–1713, Italian composer and violinist. Famed for his virtuosity and his elegant style of composition, he spent most of his life in Rome, where he was court violinist to Cardinal Ottoboni.
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 used four or more, alternating fast and slow movements. These three composers were active in the development of all forms of the concerto in the baroque period. J. S. Bach's six Brandenburg concertos and the concertos of Handel represent the fullest development of the baroque type. Toward the end of the 18th cent. the solo concerto displaced the concerto grosso. Mozart established the classical concerto in three movements, the first of which is a fusion of ritornello form with the newer sonata form, for solo instrument and orchestra. Beethoven expanded the dimensions of this form, giving greater importance to the orchestra. In the 19th cent. Liszt unified the concerto by using the same themes in all movements. He used the concerto form as a showcase for virtuoso display in the solo. The concerto repertory is strongest in works for piano and violin as the solo instrument. In the 20th cent. renewed interest in the concerto grosso has been manifested by such composers as Hindemith, Bartók, and Schnittke. Although previously reliant on the principle of tonalitytonality
, in music, quality by which all tones of a composition are heard in relation to a central tone called the keynote or tonic. In music that has harmony the terms key and tonality
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, the solo concert adapted to atonalityatonality
, in music, systematic avoidance of harmonic or melodic reference to tonal centers (see key). The term is used to designate a method of composition in which the composer has deliberately rejected the principle of tonality.
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 and serial musicserial music,
the body of compositions whose fundamental syntactical reference is a particular ordering (called series or row) of the twelve pitch classes—C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B—that constitute the equal-tempered scale.
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, as in the concertos of Schoenberg and Berg.


See A. Veinus, The Concerto (rev. ed. 1964); D. F. Tovey, Essays in Musical Analysis: Concertos (1936, repr. 1972).



a musical work in which a small body of participating instruments or voices is contrasted with a greater body or with the entire ensemble, with the smaller group set off for the sake of thematic relief of the musical material, tonal color, and the use of all the possibilities of the instruments or voices. Concerti for solo instrument and orchestra are most common. Less frequently encountered are works for two, three, or four instruments and orchestra. Among the special types of concerti are the concerto grosso, the symphony concertante, the concerto for one instrument (without orchestra), the concerto for voice (voices) and orchestra, and the concerto for a cappella choir. Typical features of the concerto are a brilliant, virtuosic solo part and contrast between the solo and orchestral parts.

The polyphonic vocal-instrumental concerto emerged in Italy at the turn of the 17th century. Seventeenth-century Italy was also the birthplace of the instrumental concerto, to whose development the 18th-century composers A. Vivaldi and J. S. Bach made an important contribution.

The classical instrumental concerto took shape in the creative work of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. It is a three-movement cycle which, unlike the usual sonata or symphonic cycle, lacks a scherzo (minuet). The first movement uses a double exposition, in which the themes are stated first by the orchestra and then by the soloist accompanied by the orchestra. After the recapitulation in the first movement (and sometimes in the third, as well) there is a virtuosic cadenza.

In his concerti Beethoven combined a virtuosic solo part, profound music, and a genuinely symphonic development. (He composed five concerti for piano and orchestra, one concerto for violin and orchestra, and a “triple” concerto for piano, violin, and cello with orchestra.) Later, two types of concerti were designated: the virtuoso concerto, in which instrumental concertizing prevails, and the “symphonic” concerto, which is dominated by a symphonic development.

In the 19th and 20th centuries concerti consisting of two, four, or five movements have been composed, as well as the more traditional three-movement ones. In addition, composers turned to one-movement concerti—the small form (Konzertstück; concertino), a more developed form similar to the symphonic poem (created by F. Liszt, who wrote two concerti for piano and orchestra). Striking examples of the piano concerto were composed by R. Schumann, F. Chopin, J. Brahms, and E. Grieg. N. Paganini, F. Mendelssohn, and Brahms wrote outstanding violin concerti, and A. Dvorak composed a brilliant cello concerto. There are also concerti for flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, and other instruments.

The Russian composers P. I. Tchaikovsky and S. V. Rachmaninoff created outstanding concerti. A number of concerti by Soviet composers, including S. S. Prokofiev, A. I. Khachaturian, D. B. Kabalevskii, D. D. Shostakovich, and R. M.Glière, have won international recognition. Soviet composers have laid the foundation for new varieties of the concerto by creating a number of concerti for folk instruments, such as the balalaika and domra.


Orlov, G. A. Sovetskii fortepiannyi kontsert. Leningrad, 1954.
Khokhlov, Iu. Sovetskii skripichnyi kontsert. Moscow, 1956.
Raaben, L. Sovetskii instrumental’nyi kontsert. Leningrad, 1967.
Schering, A. Geschichte des Instrumentalkonzerts bis aufdie Gegenwart, 2nd ed. Leipzig, 1927.



1. a composition for an orchestra and one or more soloists. The classical concerto usually consisted of several movements, and often a cadenza
2. another word for ripieno
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