The concerto in the Classical period (roughly 1750-1800)

A conductor conducts his orchestra

The concerto was a popular form during the Classical period (roughly 1750-1800). It had three movements – the two fast outer movements and a slow lyrical middle movement.

The Classical concerto introduced the cadenza, a brilliant dramatic solo passage where the soloist plays and the orchestra pauses and remains silent.

The cadenza:

  • is usually played towards the end of the first movement
  • is improvised and based on one or more themes from the first movement
  • shows off the skills of the soloist
  • often ends on a trill

Mozart wrote 21 concertos for piano as well as concertos for violin, French horn, clarinet, and flute. Another famous Classical concerto is Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in E flat.

The first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor has a cadenza passage that demonstrates the musical attributes of the cadenza.

Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor