Development and Popularity of the Keyboard Concerto

Describe the event of the keyboard concerto from c.1710-1790, and assess why the shape turned so widespread with each composers and public.

This essay explores the event of the keyboard concerto in the course of the 18th century contemplating its precursors, social and financial context and the arrival of the piano. By exploring the work of key composers in the course of the 18th century, will probably be proven how musical and social shifts created an surroundings through which enduring, widespread and technically adventurous piano concertos might emerge.

Early Concertos

Concertos are sometimes outlined asinstrumental works the place a smaller group (in a concerto grosso) or soloist (ina solo concerto) contrasts towards the sonority of a bigger grouping. This system was utilized in orchestration in the course of the 17th century in works equivalent to canzonas (Grout 1988: 473), with the concerto kind rising in direction of theend of the 17th century. Presumably essentially the most influential composers ofearly concertos have been Corelli, Torelli and Vivaldi. Wellesz and Sternfield(1973: 435) hint the emergence of the early concerto kind via these three composers.

Corelli’s twelve Opus 6 concertigrossi have been written on the finish of the 17th century utilizing a construction consisting of a considerably random alternation of gradual and quick actions. Actions have been ritornello-based (a ritornello is sort of a chorus), with alternating tutti and concertino passages exhibiting restricted ornament or exploration of thematic materials.

Torelli, composing on the flip ofthe century, wrote concerti grossi and solo concerti. He established the three motion (fast-slow-fast) construction that was extensively adopted. Torelli additionally explored using contrasting thematic parts inside concertos and elevated the complexity of solo strains.

Vivaldi, writing within the early 18thcentury, refined the shape, with extra exploration of thematic contrasts, though Kolneder (1986b: 307-Eight) argues that Vivaldi’s materials is maybe higher described as motifs than themes.

Though these three composers werekey to the emergence of the concerto kind, their instrumentation targeted on strings. Vivaldi wrote some flute and bassoon concerti, and orchestras would sometimes embrace a continuo keyboard half, however the first composers to make use of solo keyboard in concertos have been Bach, Handel and Babel.

The First Keyboard Concertos

There's debate over which piece ofmusic qualifies as the primary keyboard concerto. Handel wrote the primary organ concertos, with a set of six revealed in 1738, however used a concerto-likestructure very a lot earlier, in his cantata ‘Il trionfo del tempo e deldisinganno’ of 1707, contrasting the organ with the orchestra in a ritornello construction.

Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 5,composed round 1720, is extensively held to be the primary harpsichord concerto, and develops the idea of the virtuoso soloist, that includes an in depth solo harpsichord cadenza in direction of the tip of the primary motion.

Nonetheless, current analysis means that, even sooner than this, William Babel was writing concerted actions for harpsichord. The dates of composition are unsure, however look like at leastas early as 1718, and probably 5 or 6 years previous to that (Holman 2003).

Handel’s work, along with creating the keyboard concerto, supplies attention-grabbing insights into the character of efficiency and developments in novice music-making on the time. Handel hadmoved to London, the place he spent most of his grownup life, in 1712, establishing himself as one thing of a star. Initially discovering success with Italian-style opera, the wane within the reputation of the shape induced him to modify to oratorios. The virtuoso castrati, who had performed a significant function inopera, weren't applicable for oratorios, the place virtuoso efficiency was thought-about to not be within the spirit of the work. By composing organ concerti tobe carried out alongside the oratorios, Handel preserved a component of virtuoso efficiency widespread with audiences, and as one of many main organists of his day, he was in a position to showcase his abilities via these works..

Because the English organ had no pedals, music written for it transferred simply to the harpsichord, and Handel’s writer might promote his second set of organ concerti as ‘for harpsichord or organ’, broadening its attraction (Rochester 1997).

Mid-Century Developments

The recognition of the Baroque concerto might have hindered the event of the concerto kind. Wellesz and Sternfield argue that even such unique composers as Sammartini and C.P.E.Bach couldn't rid their minds of Baroque preconceptions. (1973: 434)

C P E Bach frequently used the Baroque construction, with quite a lot of tuttis punctuating solo passages within the ritornello type, however was revolutionary in different respects: his machine of operating one motion into one other is extra usually related to 19th century music.

Wellesz and Sternfield set up three essential parts the place there's a clear differentiation in type between Classical and Baroque concerto types: tonality, kind and co-ordination of musical parts (1973: 435-6).

Classical concerto type develops the idea of opposing tonalities, inserting tonic and dominant towards one another,whereas the Baroque type, although usually utilizing modulation, maintains extra stability.

Within the Baroque concerto, exposition and growth are sometimes mixed, whereas within the Classical period there may be clearer demarcation, pointing in direction of sonata quite than ritornello kind.

The Baroque kind entwines contrapuntal parts over a extra impartial bassline, whereas the Classical kind prefers all parts – together with concord, melody, orchestration and rhythm- to be held collectively inside the similar total plan.

Additionally key to the event of the keyboard concerto was the emergence of the piano. The prototype instrument was developed by Bartolomeo Cristofori within the last years of the 17thcentury and referred to as the gravicembalo con piano e forte, which means harpsichord withsoft and loud, though the dulcimer, the place strings are hit by hammers, was extra of an inspiration than the plucked harpsichord. This gave scope to developa keyboard instrument with better dynamic versatility. Nonetheless, composers have been initially sceptical. In 1736, Gottfried Silbermann invited J S Bach to strive one in every of his devices. Bach was vital, however Silbermann labored to enhance hispiano, and Bach subsequently acted as an middleman in its gross sales.

The brand new instrument additionally discovered success in Britain. Throughout the 18th century, Britain, and particularly London, was cosmopolitan: Handel had had nice success, and data present that many musicians from the continent made Britain dwelling. Britain supplied an surroundings of relative political stability in contrast with many areas of Europe. There was a eager appreciation of music among the many higher lessons, and a rising center classwith cash to spend on spare time activities – together with music.

Nonetheless, in 1740 there was solely onepiano within the nation. In 1756, the Seven Years Struggle resulted in an exodus from Saxony to Britain, and their numbers included a bunch of harpsichord makers,one in every of whom, Zumpe, started to make pianos and invented the sq. piano. It had benefits over the harpsichord and different varieties of piano which have been an identical form to the harpsichord. It was faster and cheaper to fabricate, and remained widespread till the center of the following century.

Johann Christian Bach, son of J Sand youthful brother of C P E, arrived in London in 1762. He developed a variety of economic pursuits, and have become Zumpe’s London agent, offering an incentive to put in writing materials to indicate the instrument to its greatest benefit. He had different enterprise pursuits too: on arrival in London in 1762, he shared lodgings with Carl Abel, additionally a German composer. They developed a partnership operating subscription live shows, which proved massively widespread till after J CBach’s dying in 1782, and had a stake within the Hanover Sq. Rooms, which they used as a venue for his or her live shows.

Johann Christian had been a pupil of his older brother Carl Philip Emmanuel, nevertheless it was the youthful brother who was the extra influential on the event of the concerto kind, significantly with regard to exposition themes. He usually used a triadic main theme and extra cantabile secondary theme, suggesting parts of sonata kind, though ritornello type remains to be evident.

J C Bach wrote round 40 keyboard concertos between 1763 and 1777 (Grout 1987: 560). Halfway, relationship from 1770,are the Opus 7 concertos: ‘Sei concerti per il cembalo o piano e forte’ (six concertos for harpsichord or piano). The title itself is critical.Harpsichord manufacture was nonetheless on the rise within the 1770s, however the instrument was quickly to be overtaken in reputation by the sq. piano, and Bachwas the primary to make use of the instrument for public efficiency (Grout 1987: 562).Grout means that the E flat main concerto, no. 5 of the set, hassignificant structural similarities to Mozart’s Okay488 (Piano Concerto No. 23 inA main), with an identical mixture of Baroque ritornello construction and sonataform, contrasting keys and thematic materials.

Whereas Johann Christian’s work goes some method to realising the Classical concerto kind, it was Mozart who pushed theform ahead to create a precedent for concerto composition in subsequent centuries:

Mozart’s concertos are incomparable. Not even the symphonies reveal such wealth of invention, such breadth and vigor of conception, such perception and useful resource within the figuring out of musical concepts.

Grout 1987: 614

Mozart’s Piano Concertos

Mozart’s transfer to Vienna from Salzburg in 1781 heralds musical developments and displays social adjustments. On 9May 1781, he wrote to his father I'm not so unlucky as to be in Salzburg service (Mersmann 1938: 161): he had been pissed off by the restricted alternatives of his employment at courtroom. The enjoyment of leaving Salzburg for Vienna appears to have been musically inspiring, and the following few years have been prolific, not least within the composition of piano concertos: Mozart wrote 12 between 1784 and 1786.

The affect of J C Bach on Mozartwas vital. The 2 had met in London in 1764, when Mozart was nonetheless aboy. In 1772, Mozart created his first three piano concertos by rearranging three of J C Bach’s sonatas. Past the concerto construction, the element of Mozart’s music suggests Bach’s affect. His refined ornamentation and cleveruse of suspensions and ambiguities of tonality additionally characterises J C Bach’s work.

Mozart’s use of keys is especially revolutionary: within the first motion of the A significant Piano Concerto Okay488, the event part incorporates a passage of dialogue between thewinds and a bigger grouping of piano and strings, modulating via E minor at bar 156, C main at bar 160, A minor at bar 164 after which via F main at bar 166 to D minor at bar 168. The extra apparent, associated tonalities for a piece in Amajor could be D and E main, the subdominant and dominant keys, and F# minor, the relative minor key. This sort of harmonic machine provides a robust sense of departure from the security and stability of the house key, making its eventual return within the recapitulation stronger and extra satisfying.

This passage additionally reveals examples of Mozart’s revolutionary orchestration: the small group-large group distinction of earlier concertos turns into a three-way interchange, with piano, winds and strings forming three teams that are united and contrasted in a variety of combos.


Mozart’s improvements took the keyboard concerto to a brand new degree, and provides some indication of why the shape turned so widespread with composers and the general public.

For the composer, working patterns have been altering, away from the usually creatively restrictive nature of patronageto an surroundings of extra freedom, with composers having extra management of performances as occasions – J C Bach is a very good instance of this. With many composers additionally being gifted performers, who might entice audiences by means of their virtuosity, the concerto supplied scope to put in writing thrilling, difficult passages inside the context of a significant work, giving their performances actual influence.

But the financial actuality was thatincome trusted the success of live shows and the flexibility to please a fickle viewers.Mozart was clearly conscious of the necessity to please a variety of Viennese listeners,writing of his Three concertos written for the 1782-Three season:

There are passages right here and there from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction, however they're written in order that thenon-connoisseurs can't fail to be happy even when they don’t know why.(Quoted by Steinberg 1998: 279)

Taking the above under consideration, itis absolutely not insignificant that Mozart’s piano concertos are, 200 years after their composition, loved by an enormous viewers and in addition extremely regarded by musicologists.

The event of the keyboard concerto within the 18th century demonstrates how adjustments within the social panorama and improvements in instrument know-how planted the seeds of avibrant music trade. This helped arrange the piano concerto to turn into an indispensable ingredient within the live performance corridor and a contributing issue within the phenomenon of the virtuoso within the 19th century and past.