Best concerts: Top 10 Greatest (2023)

Concertos come in all shapes and sizes, for all instruments large and small, but which are the very best? We've discussed and debated and compiled our list of the biggest concerts. Scroll down to explore our picks for the top 10 concertsBachto Bartók – and not necessarily in that order…

10: Sibeliusviolin concerto

The violin gets more than its fair share in this selection, but I don't think a list of the best concertos could be complete without Sibelius. The composer had longed to be a virtuoso violinist himself, but never quite made it. Some say, perhaps a little meanly, that this hair-raising work - his only concerto, written in 1904/05 - was his revenge. The last movement was once described (by Donald Tovey) as a 'polonaise for polar bears' and the whole piece seems to glisten off the ice of Sibelius' native Finland, but the concerto's overwhelming personality, its unique soundscape and its entirety pose challenges for the soloist make it one of the best in the series.

Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 - I. Allegro moderated

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9: RachmaninoffPiano Concerto No. 2

Basically,Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2is perfect and one of the very best concerts. A shine from the first to the last note: the ideal mixture of soloist with the orchestra and against it; an emotional rollercoaster ride; inspired themes woven into a magnificent musical argument; and somehow the ability to take your heart and run away with it. Dated 1900-01, after several years of creative blockage, it came out that the unfortunate SergeiRachmaninoffhad suffered from him after the disastrous premiereSymphony No. 1. He consulted a hypnotherapist, Dr. Nikolai Dahl, and the treatment took effect, prompting the composer to dedicate this work to the doctor. The only reason it languishes at no. 9 is that it's just too obvious a choice.


Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor op. 18 - II. Adagio held

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8: VivaldiThe four Seasons

We've all heardVivaldi's The Four Seasonsfar too much - and it's easy to forget what a great job it is. Combining four concertos in one, it allocates three movements to each season. Each movement is accompanied by a poem that describes the scene that the music illustrates - from the singing of spring birds to a summer thunderstorm to the timid gliding of ice skaters in the middle of winter. It was published in Amsterdam in 1725, although it was written in Venice eight or nine years earlier, as part of a series of concertos entitledThe Test of Harmony and Invention- The Contest between Harmony and Invention - and it contains generous helpings of both.

Vivaldi: Violin Concerto No. 1 in E major, RV 269 "Spring" - I. Allegro

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7: Haydntrumpet concert

The brightest of instruments, wielded by the sunniest of composers: what not to be sneezed atHaydn'Strumpet concert? Written in 1796, it was intended for his friend Anton Weidinger, a virtuoso performer and instrument maker who developed a keyed trumpet that could play chromatically over its entire range - in some ways a forerunner of the modern valve version. The three-movement concerto shares Haydn's trademark vivacity and lyricism, making the most of the luminous tone at his disposal; and it gives the performer a comparatively rare opportunity to display the trumpet's singing ability as well as its brilliance.

M. Haydn: Trompetenkonzert in D-Dur - I. Adagio

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6: Elgarcello concert

The plaintive timbre and wide range of expression of the cello have often proven inspirational to composers who create music with heightened emotion.Elgarwas no exception. His elegiac concerto not only makes the most of the instrument's versatility, but also embodies the composer's unique language, balancing moments of grandeur or grandeur with doubt, longing and fear. It was his last major orchestral work, dating from 1919. After a disastrous premiere resulting from a lack of sufficient rehearsal time, it took decades for it to become the established favorite it is today. It owes much of its popularity to the acclaimed recordings of Jacqueline du Pré and Christopher Nupen's film in which she performs it.

Elgar: Cellokonzert in e-Moll, op. 85 - I. Adagio - Moderate

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5: BachBrandenburg Concerto No. 5

Rightly so, some or allBach's six Brandenburg Concertoswould have deserved this place, if not higher, in our list of the best concerts. Each is for a different group of solo instruments (or "concertantes") placed alongside the orchestral tutti; in No. 5 the instruments featured are violin, flute and harpsichord, the latter descending into a dizzying cadence that seems to be a prototype for every cadence that followed in the decades, even centuries, to come. The date of composition is uncertain: Bach wrote the concertos to present the manuscript to the Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt (hence the name) in 1721, but they may well have been composed a few years before he was active in Weimar.

4: BartókConcerto for Orchestra

There is no soloist in this concert. Each instrument in the orchestra is treated as a virtuoso in its own right while the whole organism's efficiency is highlighted in five movements of grand, atmospheric and often startling invention. Bartók said that he chose the title because of the soloistic way in which he treated the different sections of the orchestra. It was work of great practical importance to him. After fleeing war-torn Europe to the United States in 1940, he and his family struggled to make ends meet. a commission from conductor Serge Koussevitzky for the Boston Symphony Orchestra was a more than welcome arrival. The orchestra and the conductor gave theConcerto for OrchestraFirst performed in December 1944. It has been one of Bartók's most popular works ever since.

Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116 - 5th Finale (Heavy - Early)

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3: Brahmsviolin concerto

Reaching the "warhorse" era of romantic concerts, theBrahms violin concertois basically unbeatable. Of epic scale and emotional range, she not only capitalizes on the violin's virtuosity but—perhaps more importantly—its sheer tonal beauty: note the deep, rich double stops at the beginning of the first movement's development, or the concentrated delight of its duet with oboe in the sublime slow movement. The concerto was written for Brahms' close friend Joseph Joachim, the greatest violinist of his time, and premiered in Leipzig in 1879; the soaring Hungarian-style dance of the finale is a typically Brahmsian homage to his colleague's origins.

2: MozartClarinet Concerto

Probably no composer has ever written so gloriously for the clarinet asMozartdid (step Brahms and Poulenc). The instrument pours out in his hands like hot chocolate. He brings out the best in his qualities at every turn, emphasizing his ability to effervesce, mingle and speak almost like an operatic voice - perhaps a mezzo-soprano.Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, one of the greatest concertos, was nevertheless originally conceived for basset horn – that extra-dark sound that features prominently in his Requiem – and was intended for Anton Stadler, a virtuoso on the instrument, who gave the first performance (albeit on the clarinet) in Prague in October 1791. As K622, it was one of Mozart's last works and was published posthumously. Its three movements are a gentle Allegro, a peaceful and tender slow movement, and an irresistibly delightful finale.

Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A, K.622 - 1st Allegro

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1: Beethoven's "Kaiser" concerto

Beethoven's last piano concerto, the "Kaiser",can't help but go first. It has everything one could wish for in such a work: it is gripping, original, virtuoso, challenging and unforgettable. Written between 1809 and 1811, it was the only one byBeethoven’s five piano concertos, which he unfortunately did not perform himself because his increasing deafness got in the way. Incidentally, it has nothing to do with an emperor and was dedicated to Beethoven's main patron at the time, Archduke Rudolf. The cadenza is unusually placed right at the beginning of the opening allegro; the slow movement is a heavenly blend of soloist and a halo of gentle strings; and the finale has a leap in his stride worthy of an alternativeode to Joy.

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 "Emperor" - I. Allegro (I)

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Recommended recording

Three titans - pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli with the Wiener Symphoniker conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini - come together in one of the greatest performances of Beethoven's "Emperor's Concerto". You can listen to it here.

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