Friday, March 20, 2015

Concertos without a soloist

No. 190 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


This week’s montage picks up where last week’s thinking left off, in a sense. Indeed, last week considered concertos without orchestras, and this week’s looks at concertos without a soloist.

In many ways, the pieces considered thios week follow more or less the formula of the concerto grosso, where the melodic interplay occurs between the orchestra and a detachment of players within the orchestra (known as the concertino). This formula is exemplified by the selected concerti by Vivaldi and Corelli, both masters of the genre in their era.

The other two pieces retained are 20th Century compositions, which find their inspiration from the old baroque formula. The concerto in E Flat by Stravinsky falls within one of his many “compositional perio” where he flirts with specific formulas or currents. At that time, he turned his sights into baroque music – a great example of which would be his ballet Pulcinella, where he liberally borrows from Pergolesi. This concerto (along with another one he will compose for American sponsors, the Dumbarton Oaks concerto) are designed to be “modern” concerti grossi, intended for small chamber ensembles.

Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra doesn’t pretend to borrow from the baroque – it sits squarely within the modern language of the 20th Century, as do most of his major orchestral works. The different movements of the concerto single out specific sections of the orchestra for concertino duty, which explains why Leonard Bernstein called it “most democratic”.

I think you will love this music too.