Sinfonia concertante
Sinfonia concertante is a musical form that emerged during the Classical period
Classical period (music)
The dates of the Classical Period in Western music are generally accepted as being between about 1750 and 1830. However, the term classical music is used colloquially to describe a variety of Western musical styles from the ninth century to the present, and especially from the sixteenth or...

 of Western music. It is essentially a mixture of the symphony
A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, scored almost always for orchestra. A symphony usually contains at least one movement or episode composed according to the sonata principle...

 and the concerto
A concerto is a musical work usually composed in three parts or movements, in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra.The etymology is uncertain, but the word seems to have originated from the conjunction of the two Latin words...

 genres: a concerto in that one or more soloists (in the classical period, usually more than one) are on prominent display, and a symphony in that the soloists are nonetheless discernibly a part of the total ensemble and not preeminent. The form was developed by Joseph Bo(u)logne, Chevalier de St. George.

Classical era

In the Baroque period
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

, the differences between a concerto
A concerto is a musical work usually composed in three parts or movements, in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra.The etymology is uncertain, but the word seems to have originated from the conjunction of the two Latin words...

 and a sinfonia
Sinfonia is the Italian word for symphony. In English it most commonly refers to a 17th- or 18th-century orchestral piece used as an introduction, interlude, or postlude to an opera, oratorio, cantata, or suite...

(also "symphony") were initially not all that clear. The word sinfonia would, for example, be used as the name for an overture
Overture in music is the term originally applied to the instrumental introduction to an opera...

 to a stage work. Antonio Vivaldi
Antonio Vivaldi
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi , nicknamed because of his red hair, was an Italian Baroque composer, priest, and virtuoso violinist, born in Venice. Vivaldi is recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe...

 wrote "concertos" which did not highlight individual soloists and which were stylistically more or less indistinguishable from his "sinfonias." The Baroque genre that comes closest to the Classical sinfonia concertante is the concerto grosso
Concerto grosso
The concerto grosso is a form of baroque music in which the musical material is passed between a small group of soloists and full orchestra...

; among the most famous of these are those by Arcangelo Corelli
Arcangelo Corelli
Arcangelo Corelli was an Italian violinist and composer of Baroque music.-Biography:Corelli was born at Fusignano, in the current-day province of Ravenna, although at the time it was in the province of Ferrara. Little is known about his early life...


By the Classical period (roughly 1750-1800), both the symphony and the concerto had acquired more definite meanings, and the concerto grosso had disappeared altogether. This led in the last decades of the 18th century to attempts to combine the two genres, such as those by composers of the Mannheim school
Mannheim school
Mannheim school refers to both the orchestral techniques pioneered by the court orchestra of Mannheim in the latter half of the 18th century as well as the group of composers who wrote such music for the orchestra of Mannheim and others.-History:...

. Johann Christian Bach
Johann Christian Bach
Johann Christian Bach was a composer of the Classical era, the eleventh and youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is sometimes referred to as 'the London Bach' or 'the English Bach', due to his time spent living in the British capital...

 (the so-called "London Bach" and youngest son of Johann Sebastian
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

) was publishing symphonies concertantes in Paris from the early 1770s on. Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

, acquainted with the Mannheim school from 1777 and probably not unaware of J.C. Bach's publications, put considerable effort into attempts to produce convincing sinfonie concertanti. His most successful are the following:
  • Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra K. 364
    Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra
    The Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E-flat major, K. 364 , was written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.At the time of its composition in 1779, Mozart was on a tour of Europe that included Mannheim and Paris...

    (the only one Mozart is actually considered to have finished that exists in an authentic copy).
  • Sinfonia Concertante for Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon and Orchestra K. 297b (known from an arrangement, possibly inauthentic).

Joseph Haydn
Joseph Haydn
Franz Joseph Haydn , known as Joseph Haydn , was an Austrian composer, one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period. He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these forms...

, who wrote over 100 symphonies as well as a number of concertos for all kinds of instruments, produced three sinfonie concertanti. However, these works
Sinfonia Concertante (Haydn)
The Sinfonia Concertante in B flat major, Hob. I/105, by Joseph Haydn was composed in 1792. The work is a sinfonia concertante with four instruments in the solo group: violin, cello, oboe and bassoon.There are three movements:#Allegro#Andante...

 draw much more upon the concerto grosso tradition than the more symphonic treatment of the genre by Mozart.

Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

 did not write anything designated as a sinfonia concertante, although some feel his Triple Concerto
Triple Concerto (Beethoven)
Ludwig van Beethoven's Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C Major, Op. 56, more commonly known as the Triple Concerto, was composed in 1803 and later published in 1804 under Breitkopf & Hartel. The choice of the three solo instruments effectively makes this a concerto for piano trio and the...

qualifies for inclusion in the genre.

Romantic era

Few composers still called their compositions sinfonia concertante after the classical music era. However, some works such as Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts . Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a...

' Harold in Italy
Harold in Italy
Harold en Italie, Symphonie en quatre parties avec un alto principal , Op. 16, is Hector Berlioz' second symphony, written in 1834.-Creation:...

, for viola
The viola is a bowed string instrument. It is the middle voice of the violin family, between the violin and the cello.- Form :The viola is similar in material and construction to the violin. A full-size viola's body is between and longer than the body of a full-size violin , with an average...

 and orchestra approach the genre.

Camille Saint-Saëns
Camille Saint-Saëns
Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns was a French Late-Romantic composer, organist, conductor, and pianist. He is known especially for The Carnival of the Animals, Danse macabre, Samson and Delilah, Piano Concerto No. 2, Cello Concerto No. 1, Havanaise, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and his Symphony...

' Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 3 (Saint-Saëns)
The Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78, was completed by Camille Saint-Saëns in 1886 at what was probably the artistic zenith of his career. It is also popularly known as the "Organ Symphony", even though it is not a true symphony for organ, but simply an orchestral symphony where two sections out...

 features an organ
Organ (music)
The organ , is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions, each played with its own keyboard operated either with the hands or with the feet. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument in the Western musical tradition, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria who is credited with...

 that is partially immersed in the orchestral sound, but also has several distinct solo passages. The second half of this work also features a semi-soloistic part for piano four hands.

By the end of the 19th century, several French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 composers had started using the sinfonia concertante technique in symphonic poem
Symphonic poem
A symphonic poem or tone poem is a piece of orchestral music in a single continuous section in which the content of a poem, a story or novel, a painting, a landscape or another source is illustrated or evoked. The term was first applied by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt to his 13 works in this vein...

s, for example, Saint-Saëns uses a violin in Danse macabre
Danse Macabre (Saint-Saëns)
Danse macabre, Op. 40, is a tone poem for orchestra, written in 1874 by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. It started out in 1872 as an art song for voice and piano with a French text by the poet Henri Cazalis, which is based in an old French superstition...

, and César Franck
César Franck
César-Auguste-Jean-Guillaume-Hubert Franck was a composer, pianist, organist, and music teacher who worked in Paris during his adult life....

 a piano in Les Djinns.

Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till...

' Don Quixote
Don Quixote (Strauss)
Don Quixote, Op. 35, is a composition by Richard Strauss for cello, viola and large orchestra. Subtitled Phantastische Variationen über ein Thema ritterlichen Charakters , the work is based on the novel Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. Strauss composed this work in Munich in 1897...

 (1897) uses several soloists to depict the main characters, namely cello, viola, bass clarinet and tenor tuba.

Édouard Lalo
Édouard Lalo
Édouard-Victoire-Antoine Lalo was a French composer.-Biography:Lalo was born in Lille , in northernmost France. He attended that city's music conservatory in his youth. Then, beginning at age 16, Lalo studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Berlioz's old enemy François Antoine Habeneck...

's most known work, the Symphonie Espagnole
Symphonie Espagnole
The Symphonie espagnole in D minor, Op. 21, is a work for violin and orchestra by Édouard Lalo.-History:The work was written in 1874 for violinist Pablo de Sarasate, and premiered in Paris in February 1875....

, is in fact a sinfonia concertante for violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

 and orchestra.

A work in the same vein, but with the piano taking the "concertante" part is Vincent d'Indy
Vincent d'Indy
Vincent d'Indy was a French composer and teacher.-Life:Paul Marie Théodore Vincent d'Indy was born in Paris into an aristocratic family of royalist and Catholic persuasion. He had piano lessons from an early age from his paternal grandmother, who passed him on to Antoine François Marmontel and...

's Symphonie Cévenole
Symphonie sur un chant montagnard français
The Symphony on a French Mountain Air , Op. 25, written in 1886 by Vincent d'Indy, is virtually the only work by the composer that still receives regular performances today....

(Symphony on a French Mountain Air). Likewise, Henry Litolff wrote five Concerto Symphoniques, also with a piano obbligato
In classical music obbligato usually describes a musical line that is in some way indispensable in performance. Its opposite is the marking ad libitum. It can also be used, more specifically, to indicate that a passage of music was to be played exactly as written, or only by the specified...


Max Bruch
Max Bruch
Max Christian Friedrich Bruch , also known as Max Karl August Bruch, was a German Romantic composer and conductor who wrote over 200 works, including three violin concertos, the first of which has become a staple of the violin repertoire.-Life:Bruch was born in Cologne, Rhine Province, where he...

 explored the boundaries of the solistic and symphonic genres in the Scottish Fantasy
Scottish Fantasy
The Scottish Fantasy in E-flat major, Op. 46, is a composition for violin and orchestra by Max Bruch. Completed in 1880, it was dedicated to the virtuoso violinist Pablo de Sarasate.It is a four movement fantasy on Scottish folk melodies...

(violin soloist), Kol Nidrei (cello
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin, viola, and double bass. Old forms of the instrument in the Baroque era are baryton and viol .A person who plays a cello is...

 soloist), and Serenade (violin soloist).

20th century

In the 20th century, some composers such as George Enescu
George Enescu
George Enescu was a Romanian composer, violinist, pianist, conductor and teacher.-Biography:Enescu was born in the village of Liveni , Dorohoi County at the time, today Botoşani County. He showed musical talent from early in his childhood. A child prodigy, Enescu created his first musical...

, Darius Milhaud
Darius Milhaud
Darius Milhaud was a French composer and teacher. He was a member of Les Six—also known as The Group of Six—and one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His compositions are influenced by jazz and make use of polytonality...

, Frank Martin
Frank Martin (composer)
Frank Martin was a Swiss composer, who lived a large part of his life in the Netherlands.-Childhood and youth:...

, Edmund Rubbra
Edmund Rubbra
Edmund Rubbra was a British composer. He composed both instrumental and vocal works for soloists, chamber groups and full choruses and orchestras. He was greatly esteemed by fellow musicians and was at the peak of his fame in the mid-20th century. The most famous of his pieces are his eleven...

, William Walton
William Walton
Sir William Turner Walton OM was an English composer. During a sixty-year career, he wrote music in several classical genres and styles, from film scores to opera...

 and Malcolm Williamson
Malcolm Williamson
Malcolm Benjamin Graham Christopher Williamson AO , CBE was an Australian composer. He was the Master of the Queen's Music from 1975 until his death.-Biography:...

 again used the name sinfonia concertante for their compositions. Martin's work
Petite symphonie concertante
Petite Symphonie Concertante, Op. 54, is an orchestral composition by the Swiss composer Frank Martin, one of his best-known works.Martin received the commission for the work in 1944, though progress was delayed by work on the oratorio In Terra Pax...

, more reminiscent of the classical works with multiple soloists, features a piano, a harpsichord, and a harp. Karol Szymanowski
Karol Szymanowski
Karol Maciej Szymanowski was a Polish composer and pianist.-Life:Szymanowski was born into a wealthy land-owning Polish gentry family in Tymoszówka, then in the Russian Empire, now in Cherkasy Oblast, Ukraine. He studied music privately with his father before going to Gustav Neuhaus'...

 also composed a sinfonia concertante (for solo piano and orchestra), also known as his Symphony No. 4 "Symphonie-Concertante." Other examples include Joseph Jongen
Joseph Jongen
Marie-Alphonse-Nicolas-Joseph Jongen was a Belgian organist, composer, and music educator.-Biography:Jongen was born in Liège. On the strength of an amazing precocity for music, he was admitted to the Liège Conservatoire at the extraordinarily young age of seven, and spent the next sixteen years...

's 1926 Symphonie Concertante Op. 81, with an organ soloist, the Sinfonia Concertante (Symphony No. 4), for flute, harp and small string orchestra by Andrzej Panufnik
Andrzej Panufnik
Sir Andrzej Panufnik was a Polish composer, pianist, conductor and pedagogue. He became established as one of the leading Polish composers, and as a conductor he was instrumental in the re-establishment of the Warsaw Philharmonic orchestra after World War II...

 written in 1973, and Peter Maxwell Davies
Peter Maxwell Davies
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, CBE is an English composer and conductor and is currently Master of the Queen's Music.-Biography:...

's Sinfonia Concertante for wind quintet
Wind quintet
A wind quintet, also sometimes known as a woodwind quintet, is a group of five wind players . The term also applies to a composition for such a group....

, timpani and string orchestra of 1982.

The Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů
Bohuslav Martinu
Bohuslav Martinů was a prolific Czech composer of modern classical music. He was of Czech and Rumanian ancestry. Martinů wrote six symphonies, 15 operas, 14 ballet scores and a large body of orchestral, chamber, vocal and instrumental works. Martinů became a violinist in the Czech Philharmonic...

 wrote two works in this genre: Sinfonia Concertante for Two Orchestras, H. 219 (1932) and Sinfonia Concertante No. 2 in B-flat major for Violin, Cello, Oboe, Bassoon and Orchestra with Piano, H. 322 (1949). In fact, all of the composer's symphonies feature a piano, as do most of his orchestral works, but the two afore-mentioned works were the only two in his output which he labelled concertante symphonies.

Prokofiev called his work for cello and orchestra Symphony-Concerto
Symphony-Concerto (Prokofiev)
Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony-Concerto in E minor, Op. 125 is a large-scale work for cello and orchestra. Prokofiev dedicated it to Mstislav Rostropovich, who premiered it on February 18, 1952 with Sviatoslav Richter conducting . After this first performance Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony-Concerto in E...

, stressing its serious symphonic character, in contrast to the light character of the Classical period sinfonia concertante. Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

's Cello Symphony and Zwilich's Symphony No. 4 also showcase a solo cello within the context of a full-scale symphony.

Also P. D. Q. Bach
P. D. Q. Bach
P. D. Q. Bach is a fictitious composer invented by musical satirist "Professor" Peter Schickele. In a gag that Schickele has developed over a five-decade-long career, he performs "discovered" works of this forgotten member of the Bach family...

 produced a (spoofical) "Sinfonia Concertante" utilizing lute, balalaika, double reed slide music stand, ocarina, left-handed sewer flute, and bagpipes.

See also

  • The concerto for orchestra
    Concerto for Orchestra
    Although a concerto is usually a piece of music for one or more solo instruments accompanied by a full orchestra, several composers have written works with the apparently contradictory title Concerto for Orchestra...

     differs from the sinfonia concertante in that concertos for orchestra have no soloist or group of soloists that remains the same throughout the composition.
  • Concerto for Group and Orchestra
    Concerto for Group and Orchestra
    The Concerto for Group and Orchestra is a concerto composed by Jon Lord, with lyrics written by Ian Gillan. It was first performed by Deep Purple and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold on 24 September 1969 and released on vinyl in December 1969. The release was the first...

    , reviving some of the "Sinfonia concertante" characteristics.
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