Did You Know? Musical Notes from the Penn State Laureate

November 03, 2008

Q: What is a Concerto?

A: Concerto? Is this a misprint for Concert? Why are some pieces labeled Concerto and others Sonata or Symphony? A concerto is a solo piece for an instrument with accompaniment by an orchestra. The most popular and typical concertos are written for piano or violin with an orchestra. However, a concerto can be written for any instrument with an orchestral accompaniment. The solo instrument usually is given a very difficult part with virtuosic or flashy lines to show off the beauty of the instrument and the facility of the musician within the context of the orchestral sound. There are exceptions to this such as a Concerto for Orchestra. This means that the entire orchestra is being treated as a virtuosic soloist, so it would be very demanding for all parts. Most concertos of the "romantic period" (19th century) are made up of three movements, fast-slow-fast.

Please send any other musical questions that you always wanted to know but were too shy to ask to Penn State Laureate Kim Cook at kdc3@psu.edu.

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