Where Does the Word Concerto Get Its Name From?
The word concerto comes from Italian; its etymology is uncertain, but it seems to originate from the conjunction of two Latin words: conserere (meaning to tie, to join, to weave) and certamen (competition, fight). The idea is that the two parts in a concerto—the soloist and the orchestra or concert band—alternate between episodes of opposition, cooperation, and independence to create a sense of flow.
A concerto is a musical composition for a solo instrument and an orchestra. It often has three separate movements with a small pause between each one, when the audience remains silent. The first movement is quick, the second slow and the last quick. Often the orchestra begins a movement; the solo instrument joins in, weaving the theme of the music against the background of the other instruments. The solo instrument may have passages on its own, with the orchestra joining in from time to time and then coming together finally to finish the movement.
The concerto, as understood in this modern way, arose in the Baroque period, in parallel to the concerto grosso, which contrasted a small group of instruments called a concertino with the rest of the orchestra, called the ripieno. The popularity of the concerto grosso form declined after the Baroque period, and the genre was not revived until the 20th century. The solo concerto, however, has remained a vital musical force from its inception to this day.
The concerto style originated in Italy in the 17th Century. Many of the world’s most famous composers have written concertos, often with a particular soloist in mind, and designed to show off his special skill. The piano has been the most popular solo instrument for concertos, but the harpsichord, viola and violin have often been featured. More recently concertos have also been composed for the horn, bassoon, trumpet, cello, double-bass, trombone, oboe, flute and the harp.