What is a concerto grosso in music?
A concerto grosso (Where concerti magnifiedplural) was a common form of orchestral music at the time Baroque era of music, circa 1600-1750), although the form has been revisited by other composers since, notably in Neoclassical period.
The concerto grosso is especially remarkable for the contrast it presents between a small group of soloists (often called the concertino) and a full orchestra that accompanies it (the ripieno).
What instruments play in a concerto grosso?
The concertino part of the concerto grosso was usually interpreted as a trio sonata, a chamber music kind at that time. It was basically two violins and a keep on going (consisting of a bass instrument such as a cello and a harmony instrument – a harpsichord, for example. Wind instruments were also common: flutes or oboes could replace violins. During this time, the ripieno part was usually a string orchestra, again with continuo and possibly backed by brass or woodwind instruments.
Often, early concerti grossi were given names that indicated where they were intended to be played. Therefore, a chiesa concerto (“church concerto”) was designed to be played in an ecclesiastical environment, while a camera concerto (“chamber concerto”) would have been played in a royal or ducal court. Of the two, the secular world was ultimately where the concerto grosso form would flourish.
What is the difference between a concerto and a concerto grosso?
A concerto usually involves a solo instrument playing with, or sometimes against, orchestral accompaniment. The most popular instruments for concertos (or concerti) are the piano and the violin, although other instruments such as the cello, oboe, trumpet, clarinet and viola have had many wonderful concertos written for them. them.
Which composers wrote a concerto grosso?
The concerto grosso form reached its apogee during the Baroque period (about 1600 to 1750). At that time, some notable composers including Arcangelo Corelli, Pietro Locatelli and Antonio Vivaldi used the form. Corelli’s 12 Concerti Grossi are justly famous: they are all absolutely stunning and did much to establish the model of the concerto grosso that other composers could follow. The concertino element of these concertos consists of two violins and a cello.
In fact, Corelli’s Concerti Grossi were not published until a few decades after they were composed. When they finally appeared they had a great impact, making the concerto grosso form popular and prompting many composers – especially in Germany and England – to follow where Corelli had led. For example, in 1739 Georg Frideric Handel paid Corelli the ultimate tribute with his own set of 12 Concerti Grossi.
Elsewhere on the site, we looked at the best recordings of Corelli’s Concerti Grossi. You will find wonderful versions here, all worthy of the title of the best Corelli Concerti Grossi recording.
However, the form experienced something of a renaissance in the 20th century, as part of the neoclassical movement – a wider resurgence of forms and idioms from the classical period of music (c. 1750 to 1820), as evidenced by composers such than Haydn and Mozart.
Various 20th century composers, including Ernest Bloch, Vincent d’Indy and Bohuslav Martinů have all composed concerti grossi. We think the wonderful Bloch Concerto Grosso No.1 is an absolute winner, and the Martinů Concerto Grosso is certainly not far behind.
Five concerto grosso records to try
Corelli: 12 Concerti Grossi
Roy Goodman (director) / The Brandenburg Consort
Hyperion CDD 22011
“The Brandenburg Consort’s 1992 recording is done with grace and panache by violinist Roy Goodman,” says our critic Kate Bolton-Porciatti. “Its 19 musicians deliver polished performances, tempos are sensitively judged, and dance moves are delightfully flexible. Continuo performances on organ or harpsichord and archlute add varied colors and textures.’
Handel: 6 Concerti Grossi, Op.3
Georg Kallweit / Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
Pentatone PTC 5186 776
“No two concertos in the ensemble are the same, and Handel’s imaginative deployment of woodwinds is perhaps particularly alluring.”, says our critic Nicholas Anderson of this recording of the previous concerti grossi from Handel’s Opus 3.
Bloch: Concerti Grossi 1 & 2
Dalia Atlas / Atlas Camerata
Wonderful, tangy renditions of concerto grosso form, with (especially in No. 1) Bloch’s distinctive Jewish soundscape at full throttle.
Martinu: Concerto Grosso, etc.
Ondrej Kukal / Prague Chamber Orchestra
Quite simply a marvelous disc of works by Martinů for small orchestra. He presents his exuberant Sinfonietta La Jolla (actually a chamber symphony with piano obligatory) as well as the lively Toccata e Due Canzoni and the magnificent Concerto Grosso. All are delivered in scintillating performances by the Prague Chamber Orchestra, which (pardon the cliche) has this music in its blood.
Tamberg: Concerto Grosso, etc.
Neeme Järvi / Residentie Orkest Den Haag
Eino Tamberg (1930-2010) was an Estonian composer of operas, symphonies and concertos. His Concerto Grosso is a marvelous synthesis of intertwined classical forms and modern harmonic adventures. Here he gets a fine performance, with fellow Estonian Neeme Järvi waving the baton.