Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Once, Twice, Three Times a Concerto

One of my favorite genres of classical music is the concerto.  A concerto is where you have an orchestra with a soloist in front of the orchestra.  For example, in a piano concerto you will have the orchestra with the pianist in front of the orchestra close to the conductor.  There have been concertos composed for all the instruments in the orchestra [I had to check to see if there has ever been a concerto for double bass and orchestra and there have been].

Piano Concerto a.k.a. Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
Although not as prevalent, you do have multiple concertos, double and triple concertos.  A double concerto would have two soloists in front the orchestra. The soloists can involve two different instruments, like violin and cello, or two of the same instruments, like Mozart's double piano concerto #27.

Brahms Concerto for violin and cello - Ex. of Double Concerto
There are even less triple concertos, so when you find one like Beethoven's great Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello, Piano and Orchestra, it is indeed a treat.  To have three great soloists in front of a symphony orchestra in such a beautiful concerto is so wonderful to see and hear. 

The audience gets a special treat from the usual solo concerto where there is interplay between the soloist and orchestra. In a triple concerto like the great Beethoven's, you not only have interplay between the orchestra and the three soloists, you also have interplay between the three soloists [violin, cello and piano]. So, it is almost like getting to hear a trio along with a concerto in the same piece.

Beethoven's Triple Concerto - For violin, cello, piano and orchestra
Another difference between a single concerto and a multiple concerto, in a usual concerto the soloist will be playing by memory without any sheet music in front of him [almost all the time]; but in a double or triple concerto, the soloists will have the score in front of them just like the rest of the orchestra. This is not to say the soloists haven't memorized the score just as the soloist in a concerto has. I am sure they know it backwards and forwards, but because there are three people who have "skin in the game" it matters if one of the soloists makes a mistake. In a single concerto, if the soloist messes up a note, it is just on him and he can quickly overcome that so the audience may not even realize it, but in a triple concerto, like this one, if one of the performers mess up their part, it will make it seem like the trio of soloists messed up.  

Beethoven's Triple Concerto is scored in the bright key of C Major with the usual 3 movements: the first movement, allegro, has a majestic character leading to an exciting climax; the second movement which begins at the 19:00 mark in the following video is a melodic romantic movement, largo. There is no break between the short second movement and third movement but a bridge that leads to the exciting third movement, rondo alla polacca, that begins at the 24:11 mark of the following video. 

Note: As I stated earlier, notice how the 3 soloists are playing with the music unlike a solo concerto where the soloist almost always plays without the music.

Please play in full screen, turn up the volume and listen to this awesome treat by Beethoven of his, not once, not twice, but his three times famous Triple Concerto in C Major. 

L.V. Beethoven: Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C Major:


susan said...

What a beautiful piece, and what an amazingl audience. It makes you wish you were there. Thanks for the detailed explanation.

Big Mike said...

Thanks Susan!! Then that makes me glad I posted!!!

Joel said...

Agree with Susan! I always learn from your music posts!

Big Mike said...

Thanks Joel! Every blessing!

Unknown said...

It is one of my favorites by Beethoven, well, all of his work is my favorite, however, not only this concerto is a huge treat, it is played by the music giants! Gives me the goose bump really! Wow! Thanks for sharing this and wonderful explanation!!!

Big Mike said...

Thanks so much Connie for those comments! :-)