Harpsichord concerto

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A harpsichord concerto is a piece of music for an orchestra with the harpsichord in a solo role (though for another sense, see below). Sometimes these works are played on the modern piano (see piano concerto). For a period in the late 18th century, Joseph Haydn and Thomas Arne wrote concertos that could be played interchangeably on harpsichord, fortepiano, and (in some cases) pipe organ.

The Baroque harpsichord concerto[edit]

Composers wrote harpsichord concertos throughout the Baroque era, notably Johann Sebastian Bach (see harpsichord concertos (J. S. Bach).

The harpsichord was a common instrument, but never as popular as string or wind instruments in the concerto role, probably due to its relative lack of volume in an orchestral setting.[citation needed] In this context, harpsichords were more usually employed as a continuo instrument, playing a harmonised bass part in nearly all orchestral music, the player often also directing the orchestra.

Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No.5 in D major, BWV 1050, may be the first work in which the harpsichord appears as a concerto soloist.[citation needed] In this piece, its usual continuo role is alternated with prominent solo obbligato episodes in all three movements. In the first movement the harpsichord, after rapid scales up and down the length of its range, embarks on a solo cadenza which lasts for 3–4 minutes, while the orchestra is silent.

The concerto for solo harpsichord[edit]

It was also popular at this time to adapt Italian concertos for other instruments (such as violin and orchestra) for solo harpsichord (or organ)—which Bach did with many of Vivaldi's concertos. Bach's Italian concerto BWV 971 is in this transcription style, though it was written as an original piece for harpsichord. The concerto transcriptions Bach made for harpsichord are listed as BWV 972–987 (see List of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach).

The new harpsichord concerto[edit]

With the harpsichord revival in the 20th century, harpsichordists commissioned new pieces for the new 'revival' instrument: Wanda Landowska commissioned concerti from Francis Poulenc and Manuel de Falla. Though the 'revival instruments' have now fallen out of favour, concerti continue to be written for harpsichord, though are now more likely to be played on a copy of a historical instrument, perhaps with a small orchestra or some amplification to ensure it can be well heard.

List of harpsichord concertos[edit]

Several other works feature the harpsichord as a solo instrument alongside others, including:

External links[edit]

References[edit]