Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Orchestra's Tutti vs. The Soloist's Cadenza

Repeat post from October of 2014

The Orchestra's Tutti vs. The Soloist's Cadenza:

In a concerto you have a soloist playing along with the symphony orchestra. The soloist will be alongside the conductor in front of the orchestra.  I have seen different meanings for concerto but will go along with the one my daughter's esteemed Russian American piano teacher gave-contest.   In that sense a concerto is like a competition between the soloist and the orchestra.  In reality, the soloist and orchestra are working together to make beautiful music.

For much of the concerto the soloist and orchestra will be playing together.  But there are moments in the concert where they will not be playing together.  Those times when you see the orchestra playing without the soloist is called tutti.  Most concertos will have many tuttis, where the whole orchestra is playing while the soloist is silent.  In most classical concertos, there will be a long tutti at the beginning of the concerto before the soloist enters the fray.

So, there are times when the orchestra plays without the soloist. What about the soloist playing without the orchestra?  While there are usually certain passages when the soloist plays by himself, there is a special moment [and a longer period of time], usually near the end of the first movement in a concerto, when the soloist plays without the orchestra in order to exhibit his/her virtuosity.  That is called a cadenza.  When the cadenza occurs, you will see the conductor instructing  the orchestra with his baton to be silent and to put their instruments in a non playing position.  That is when the soloist takes over to "show his stuff."

As I said, the cadenza will usually take place in the first movement, but every once in a while you will find a cadenza in either the second or third movement, also.  When the cadenza occurs, all eyes in the concert hall then turn to the soloist.

While there will be only one cadenza [with very few exceptions] in a movement of a concerto, there will usually be many tuttis in each movement of the concerto that sometimes gives a break to the soloist in a physically demanding concerto, as he gets to rest while the orchestra is playing alone. 

In Beethoven's first piano concerto, there is a great illustration of both a tutti passage by the orchestra and the soloist's cadenza, as both are exaggerated for an unusally extended period of time.  Like in many classical concerti, the concerto begins with a long tutti, as the orchestra [without the soloist] gives an introduction of the various themes you are about to hear in the first movement of the concerto.  

L.V. Beethoven  [Dec. 16, 1770-March 26, 1827]
In Beethoven's C Major piano concerto notice that the opening tutti lasts for almost three minutes before the soloist enters.

Then near the end of the first movement Beethoven has written one of the longest cadenzas for the soloist that you will ever hear, almost 5 minutes long.  In this video the cadenza starts at 12:40 and lasts until 17:25, before the orchestra comes in to end the first movement.

Note: In this video the pianist, Polish virtuoso pianist, Kirstyn Zimerman, is also the leader [conductor], as this is played without the typical conductor.  Zimerman is a controversial political figure, but I separate his politics from his magnificent virtuosity, that cannot be denied.

I love this concerto.  Beethoven's first concerto was actually written second, but it was called number one because it was published before the first one he wrote.  Only Beethoven's 5th piano concerto, "The Emperor", tops this one in my opinion.  All five of Beethoven's piano concerti are great, but this is my second favorite of the five.

Please turn up the volume to enjoy the first movement of this masterpiece piano concerto by the great Ludwig Van Beethoven and notice the long tutti to open the concerto and then the long cadenza that will be played by the soloist Zimerman near the end of the first movement.

L.V. Beethoven: Piano Concerto #1 in C Major, Movement 1, Allegro con Brio:


Connie Bach said...

The Emperor is my ultimate favorite concerto and this one, I also LOVE! Who can not love any music Beethoven wrote? Thanks Mike for educating music lovers like me. Now I know what tutti means! Keep it coming!

Big Mike said...

Thanks Connie, I am learning new stuff all the time that I had no idea and like to share when I learn. For ex., I never heard of tutti until one pre-concert talk they give at the Houston Symphony concert about a year ago.

Pamela said...

Most pianists need tutti sections to rest physically and prepare mentally for upcoming challenges in the piece. You picked an amazing pianist and most interesting character: Kristian Zimmerman.

Big Mike said...

Yes, Pamela character is right. He is a great pianist but should stick to that and leave the politics behind when performing.

I don't know of you saw that post I did about the Rach3 one of the reasons it is considered one of the most difficult piano concerto's is because thee are so few tutti passages and that makes it so physically and mentally challenging for the soloist.
Thanks Pamela.

Jim said...

The fourth concerto is (to me at least) the best of the bunch. The slow movement is to die for spiritually. But my question concerns Zimmerman's politics. I neither know nor probably care what they are, unless we have another Hitler or Stalin here. Please elaborate for those of us who are I enlightened.

Jim said...

Oops. NOT enlightened.

Big Mike said...

Thanks big Jim for your comments! I remember reading how Zimerman has bashed the United States [as a militaristic country] and once even interrupted a concert he was playing in with an anti-US tirade [in which many people in the audience walked out on him]...he has bashed GW Bush and Obama for their military policy and I don't think he even performs in the United States anymore I have found one link