Playlist: Beginner Concertos to Excite the Senses

By Adela Skowronski |

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sheet music of a concerto dappled by a refracted beam of light with the colors of the rainbow visibleConcertos are largely considered to be the pinnacle of solo performance within classical music. Just like guitar solos in rock, or solo breaks in jazz, concertos highlight the abilities of one performer, or sometimes a few, with an accompanying instrumental ensemble.

The main highlight of any concerto is the cadenza: a musical break where all other instruments fade away except for the soloist. It’s the soloist’s biggest opportunity to show off their skills! Cadenzas are usually written out in the sheet music of a concerto, but sometimes performers add their own flourishes, or even completely improvise their own cadenza!

Concertos first appeared in the late Renaissance as a way to highlight exceptional vocalists, though they had developed into a mostly instrumental form by the end of the Baroque era. Current classical music repertoire contains concertos for all types of soloists: from instruments traditionally used in classical music like violins and clarinets, to less common instruments like harmonica, bass drum, and even water!

While concertos can be the equivalent of a musical feast for fans, the sheer number of them, and their long runtimes make it difficult for beginners to know where to start.

So we decided to reach out to you!

In a Facebook post, we asked listeners what pieces they might recommend for concerto newcomers.

Mark S.’s choice was the “Concerto in F… by Mr. Gershwin and my fave interpreter Oscar Levant.”

Carol K. added some heat to the list: “My favorite piano concerto is Prokofiev's 3rd.”

Meanwhile, Judy L. simply stated that you “can’t go wrong with Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto.”

These considerations and many more were taken into account when we set out to create our ultimate beginner’s guide playlist.

Check it out below, and share with folks who are looking to learn more about this thrilling staple of classical music.

And here's the full list, for your browsing pleasure. Bolded selections are listener suggestions.

  1. Edward Elgar: Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85
  2. Artie Shaw: Clarinet Concerto
  3. Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Violin Concerto in A Major, Op. 5 No. 2
  4. Felix Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in G Minor, Op. 26
  5. Clara Schumann: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 7
  6. George Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F Major
  7. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Horn Concerto No. 4 in E-flat major, K. 495
  8. Joaquín Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez (Guitar Concerto)
  9. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 23 TH 55
  10. Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor"
  11. José White Lafitte: Violin Concerto in F-Sharp Minor
  12. Robert Nagel: Concerto for Trumpet and Strings
  13. Johannes Brahms: Double Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102
  14. Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
  15. Doreen Carwithen: Piano Concerto in E-flat Major, Op. 73
  16. Georg Philipp Telemann: Viola Concerto in G Major, TWV 51:G9
  17. Max Bruch: Violin Concerto in G Minor, Op. 26
  18. Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
  19. Florence Price: Violin Concerto No. 2

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