Literally this term mean ’to concert with one another’ or in other terms have a conversation with one another. At times one individual or group of individuals may have more prominence than another.

Prior to 1600 in Europe it was rare to have more than ten instruments playing together at the same time. With the rise of elaborate theatrical spectacles accompanied by music, wealthy patrons tried to outdo one another in the number of singers, musicians, and elaborate decor used for productions that became known as opera.

Gradually the larger groups of instrumentalists consisting of string instruments (chordophones), wind instruments (aerophones), and percussionists (playing membranophones and idiophones) that came together began to have works composed especially for them, apart from the instrumental interludes and introductions that instrumentalists played in operas.

That trend was particularly encouraged at the main churches in Bologna, Italy, where there were a large number of instrumentalists on the roster. One of the types of structures that emerged there was what became known as the concerto grosso. In the concerto grosso one larger group of instrumentalists converses with a smaller concertante group of around three or four musicians.

By around 1700 or so another form of ’concertante’ emerged. That was when only one musician conversed with the rest of the group to create what became known as a solo concerto. At this time the most common soloist was the violin, but soon one had concertos featuring many other instruments including the flute, oboe, trumpet, cello, bassoon, harpsichord, organ, etc.

Like a suite, concertos consisted of several movements varied by tempo and metre, but usually connected by having the same tonic note. By 1700 or so, the tempo arrangement was usually: fast, slow, fast. The outer fast movements would be in the same key such as C major while the middle movement might be in the parallel minor key or another closely related key.
Doug Friesen, Dr. Elaine Keillor and Alison Kenny-Gardhouse

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