The concerto

Concertos have three movements – fast, slow, fast.

The concerto in the Baroque period (roughly 1600-1750)

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi

Baroque composers who wrote concertos include Vivaldi, Bach and Handel. Vivaldi wrote over 500 concertos and half of them were for violin.

There were two types of Baroque concerto - the concerto grosso and the solo concerto.

The Baroque concerto grosso:

  • is written for a group of solo instruments (the concertino) and for a larger ensemble (the ripieno)
  • has well-known examples like Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos

Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 is an example of the concerto grosso. When the piece opens there is a solo group of violin and two flutes are prominent and they are joined by the ripieno strings. The harpsichord is played in the continuo.

The Baroque solo concerto:

  • is written for one solo instrument and the orchestra
  • often has brilliant and technically demanding passages for the soloist to play

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is a well-known example of the Baroque solo violin concerto. In this piece there is a marked contrast between solo violin and ripieno passages.

Notice the contrast between solo violin and ripieno passages.