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 it 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 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.
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.
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:
Now watch and listen to the first movement of the great Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major where you can clearly tell the many tutti sections in this movement and the long virtuosic cadenza. A couple of examples of the tutti sections occur at the beginning [01-49] and a longer one at 6:33-7:48. The cadenza occurs from 10:00-12:53 and it is unique in that occurs closer to the middle of the movement instead of near the end.
Please turn up the volume, play in full screen and enjoy one of the greatest violin concertos ever composed by Tchaikovsky [noticing the tuttis vs the cadenza].
P.I. Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D Major, Movement 1, Allegro Moderato:
Now in this next masterpiece concerto, for those of you new to classical music, I am going to let you see if you can tell when the tutti’s occur during this movement and when the cadenza occurs. You will! 🙂
It is the first movement of Robert Schumann’s Piano concerto #1 in A-minor, Allegro Affetuoso:
Thank you for reading and listening to this post. It will be the last one I can do the following week as the fetching Mrs. B and I are on our way on vacation-to a destination I cannot disclose, can’t do it, won’t do it, wouldn’t be prudent. 🙂
Have a blessed and a peaceful week everyone!