Tutti – Oh, What a Relief It Is

Tutti – Oh, What a Relief It Is

A great feature of a Houston Symphony concert at Jones Hall is the pre-concert lecture they have called “prelude”, which occurs about 45 minutes before each concert.  The speaker gives out wonderful information about the concert we are about to hear-about the music and about the composers.  I have learned much about classical music from these talks. I learned a new term from last Saturday’s [January 21, 2012] prelude: tutti.

Tutti literally means all together [implying the whole symphony orchestra].  In a concerto, where there is a soloist and the orchestra, tutti passages are those passages where the orchestra plays while the soloist is silent.  Tutti passages can be very helpful to the soloist in a long concerto giving the soloist a brief break

We were told, in the HSO prelude talk that night, that the Rachmaninoff piano concerto #3, known as the Rach 3, is considered one of, if not the most difficult piano concertos ever composed.  It is so difficult not just because of the physical playing, involving so many large chords and technically difficult passages, but also because there are very few tutti passages in the concerto.  It is almost continuous piano playing without a break for the soloist for very long stretches.

Sergei Rachmaninoff [1873 – 1943]

Let’s look at the aforementioned piano concerto by the great Russian Romantic composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff.  You will see in this 14 minute plus video on You Tube finale, Alla breve, that except for a tutti passage that goes from 2:44-3:19 and one from 8-57-9:21, it is almost continuous [physically demanding] piano playing.  With this technical and physically demanding concerto, I’m sure the soloist appreciates those two tutti passages for some brief relief; and when those tutti breaks do come I’m wondering if the soloist is thinking to himself, “oh, what a relief it is.” 🙂

 So, first watch Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano concerto #3 in D minor, Alla Breve movement, with a great performance by pianist, Simon Trpceski, with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra [note the two tutti passages]:

Now see if you can pick up the tutti passages [orchestra without soloist] in the whole concerto by Rachmaninoff. This You Tube video has the great virtuoso, Yuja Wang as soloist with the Wiener Philharmonic Orchestra led by Maestro Andres Orozco-Estrada. Please turn up the volume and enjoy this masterpiece!

Note: the immediate tutti introduction in the first movement before the pianist enters.

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto #3 in D minor:

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