Piano concerto

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The pianist Justus Frantz plays a piano concerto

A piano concerto is a solo concerto for piano or, more rarely, harpsichord with the participation (for example, accompaniment ) of an orchestra or another ensemble , to which the piano is played as a soloist.



In his Fifth Brandenburg Concerto at the latest in 1721, Johann Sebastian Bach released the harpsichord from its usual figured bass role and assigned it extensive solo passages, above all for the first time a sweeping cadenza in the first movement. Bach's 1st Piano Concerto in D minor is characterized on the one hand by its length and on the other by solo cadences in the first and third movements. In developing the piano concerto, Bach took the route via the violin concerto that had already been trained . His concerts are composed based on his own templates for melody instruments (violin, oboe). Among Bach's 18 concertos for piano and organ that have been preserved, there are a further 13 transmissions of his own or others' concerts for solo instrument without orchestra. There were two reasons for his approach: firstly, because of the limited volume of sound, the harpsichord was not yet a universal instrument at the time and traditionally played the role of a thoroughbass instrument in the context of other instruments. Here the traditional habits had to be replaced by formulas, figures and traditions that were appropriate for concerts and adapted to the solo piano technique. With the emergence and further development of the fortepiano , numerous solo concerts were created for this instrument.

When the solo use of a keyboard instrument in ensembles became common practice, composers such as Georg Friedrich Händel , Bach's Sons , Johann Adolph Hasse , the Graun brothers , Christoph Schaffrath wrote key concerts, for example Handel's Organ Concerts op.III, printed in 1738. These concerts followed the then three-part form.

Today such baroque key concerts are also played on the modern piano.

Since the baroque era , the piano concerto can be found in all subsequent epochs up to modern times. Formally it was adapted to the current musical form models and traditional schemes, such as B. the so-called Viennese Classical Sonata Rondo in the third movement of Haydn's Piano Concerto in D major: Rondo alla Ungharese .

Viennese Classicism

With the invention of the fortepiano mechanism in early 1709, composing pieces for piano became increasingly popular. The design of the works was based on the musical form prevailing in the various epochs. The piano concerto of the Viennese Classic is formally based on the symphony / sonata form . Haydn , Mozart and Beethoven wrote concerts of this kind, which are characterized by an interplay of orchestra and solo instrument in the form of a concert with one another (dialogue character). Orchestra and pianist are equal partners.

Often, towards the end of the first movement in particular, the soloist has the opportunity to show his pianistic abilities unaccompanied ( cadenza ). Usually, the solo game is thematically linked to the themes presented in the first movement. At the beginning, cadences were improvised or written by yourself. From Beethoven onwards, the cadenza was increasingly noted down by the composers themselves. Cadences by famous performers have often prevailed in concerts.


WA Mozart on the one hand made the piano concerto one of the most popular genres of its time, on the other hand it became his favorite genre alongside opera and singspiel and was also his main source of income. Especially in his early years he composed many of his 23 solo concerts, which he himself performed and conducted in private concert halls with a middle-class audience. In keeping with the common practice at the time, the bass line was played with one hand in tutti positions in order to conduct the orchestra with the other hand. Mozart shaped the dialog-like, dramaturgical gesture of the piano concerto, based on the Opera buffa (comic opera) that he also promoted. This principle became decisive for all instrumental concerts. Mozart's influences were also Joseph Haydn , Antonio Salieri , Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Johann Christian Bach .

Mozart led Haydn's relatively simple piano concertos to a climax in which he experimented with larger forms and instrumentations (in addition to strings, horns and woodwinds, timpani and later trumpets). Beethoven standardized this expanded line-up and completed the Classical Piano Concerto. With increasing virtuosity and more daring forms, he opened the gates to romanticism . His last piano concertos in particular are standard works in the finals of international piano competitions . Well-known composers of piano concertos of the Viennese classical period are Ludwig van Beethoven (5 piano concertos, choral fantasy for piano, choir and orchestra, triple concert for piano, violin and violoncello), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (23 solo concerts, double concert for two pianos, concert rondo), Joseph Haydn ( 11), Antonio Salieri (2 piano concertos), Muzio Clementi (1), Ignaz Moscheles (8), Friedrich Kuhlau (1), Johann Nepomuk Hummel (8), Carl Czerny (5 concerts, 3 missing) and Franz Xaver Mozart (2 ).

Formal structure

The Vienna Classical Piano Concerto is related to the Baroque Solo Concerto and, like this one, has three movements in the following order:

  • 1st movement: Schnell (Allegro, Allegretto, Moderato ...)

Sonata main movement form , with the solo concert since Mozart having a double exposition , unlike the piano sonata : First the orchestra introduces the themes ( tutti exposition), then the soloist repeats the themes in the solo exposition, often with small variations . The recapitulation in the piano concerto is often designed differently than the exposition in comparison to the sonata , e.g. B. the division of orchestra and soloist is varied, re- instrumented, or parts are inserted or omitted. The solo cadenza is also typical (usually shortly before the final group in the recapitulation): the orchestra ends on the sixth fourth chord of the basic key . This is followed by a virtuoso, often improvised solo passage, which leads into the tutti- coda with a characteristic final trill on the dominant seventh chord .

  • 2nd movement: Slow (Andante, Adagio, Largo ...)

Da capo form (also called song form , ABA form or reprise form)

  • 3rd movement: Fast, dance-like, light and lively (Allegro assai, Vivace, Presto ...)

Rondo shape (A - B - A - C - A - D - etc. - Coda)

Orchestral line-up

The typical orchestral line-up in the Viennese Classic is composed as follows:

  • Strings (1st violins, 2nd violins, viola, cello, double bass)
  • Woodwinds (1 or 2 flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons each)
  • Brass (2 or 4 horns, with Beethoven and later Mozart also trumpets)
  • Timpani (with Beethoven and later Mozart)


Romantic piano concertos often deviate from the fixed forms of the classical piano concert. Since the 19th century produced numerous virtuoso pianists who wanted a better presentation of their skills, the focus of the interplay between orchestra and soloists shifted in favor of the soloists. In the solo part, the orchestra is essentially only a subdued accompaniment. A typical example of this are the piano concertos by Frédéric Chopin , which could be played completely without an orchestra if the pianist takes over the orchestral part transcribed in piano version . Completely different, however, with Schumann , whose Piano Concerto in A minor is considered a masterpiece of thematic-melodic integration of piano and orchestra without the mere virtuoso display of the soloist. A highlight of the mesh flow and -übergebens the range of topics reaches the romance in the 2nd Piano Concerto of Brahms . The length of the work as well as the sentence structure with 4 sentences is new in this profession. In contrast to his first piano concerto , the beginning already demonstrates a new path: horns introduce a theme that the piano does not take up; rather, the soloist presents himself with his own thematic twist and maintains this independence throughout the work. In this concert by the mature Brahms, the piano and orchestra are on par in formal and musical standards. The climax of the virtuoso style is reached in the middle romanticism in the widely played 1st piano concerto by Tchaikovsky , but even more so in the late romanticism in the piano concertos by Rachmaninov . Its Concerts No. 2 in C minor and 3 D minor are among the pianistic highlights, among the most technically difficult works of all and among the most frequently performed pieces of this genre in today's concert world. Last but not least, their success can be attributed to the outstanding development in piano construction, which since the second half of the 19th century, with the construction of special concert grand pianos, offered a mechanically and sound-technically high-quality, new foundation for the compositional sound requirements of the piano concert with a large orchestral range.

20th century

From the first half of the 20th century, concerts by Bartók , Gershwin , Prokofjew and Ravel are preferred in today's concert practice. The piano concerto as an independent musical form had survived into the modern era, but other forms had also emerged that provide for the concertation of piano and orchestra alike, without actually being piano concertos. Examples of this are Franz Liszt's “Wanderer Fantasy (after Franz Schubert )”, César Franck's “Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra” or George Gershwin'sRhapsody in Blue ”.


The classical piano concerto usually consists of three movements:

  1. A fast movement in sonata form with a cadenza (often improvised by the soloist ).
  2. A slow, expressive movement
  3. A quick final movement (mostly rondo )

Examples from Mozart and Beethoven follow this model, but many other concerts deviate from it. Beethoven's fourth concerto has a cadenza in the last movement, and many other composers have introduced news since then. Liszt concerts are played in one piece without pauses in sentences, even if the division into movements remains clearly recognizable.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: piano concerto  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Piano concertos  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Arnold Schering: History of the instrumental concert . Georg Olms, 1988, p. 133