What is your favorite opening of a concerto?

Edited: November 10, 2019, 4:55 AM · I absolutely love the Sibelius!!!!!!!

Replies (28)

November 10, 2019, 5:22 AM · I love Vieuxtemps 5; opens with a neapolitan chord, and only reaches the tonic 30 seconds later... What a way to begin a piece! Kind of like how Beethoven opens with the dominant, or how Conus opens with a German 6th. I think it adds a certain elegance and sophistication to the entrance of the violin.
November 10, 2019, 6:43 AM · I enjoy Dvorak violin concerto and cello. Also the Wieniawski no 1
November 10, 2019, 8:37 AM ·
If you're talking about the entry of the soloist(s) then Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante is hard to beat, the way the soloist emerge from the orchestral texture.
But for concerto openings.....
Nielsen. One chord and you're off (if you're the soloist) into a challenging cadenza.No preparation, no warm-up.
Britten - very atmospheric
Glazounov - just starts with the most basic pulsing accompaniment, then the soloist has that magical entry......
And, as mentioned, Sibelius.
November 10, 2019, 1:57 PM · Sibelius it is...

Also; it may sound lame but i really love Vivaldi: B minor for 4 Violins. Something just ticks me about it. Never gets old. Also not only its opening, that concerto itself can be the opening of any event.

Edited: November 10, 2019, 5:31 PM · The Beethoven.
Those first 5 drum-taps ARE the main theme of the first movement.

95% of everything the orchestra plays for the entire movement are 5-beat motifs (including subdivided phrases and extended phrases), starting with the 2 major themes (both made up of 5-beat phrases entirely). In between the 5-beat phrases are overlapping 5-beat phrases.

Not only that, but that 5-beat motif roughly parallels the human breath, with an exhale and relaxed feeling on beat 5. I believe Beethoven knew exactly what he was doing, and captured the breath of life, which is why the concerto, aesthetically, is usually thought of in terms of its serenity.

Where the violin contrasts with the orchestra is that the violin part is written like an improvisation (Listen to it that way and you'll hear it). And at the heart of improvisation is freedom, which we know was of real importance to Beethoven.

I've elaborated on this interpretation several times over the years on violinist.com.


Edited: November 10, 2019, 5:09 PM · Sibelius, Glazunov, and Beethoven for me.

If you include other string instruments: one of the most unique and memorable openings is that of the Ricardo Castro cello concerto, in which the orchestra plays phrases of the theme in between solo cello chords that seem to act as exclamation points. (It's an obscure concerto, but not modern at all -- it was completed the same month as Dvorak's cello concerto, which makes it rather remarkable for its time.)

November 10, 2019, 6:30 PM · For me it is Prokofiev 1 and Brahms, and for different reasons. The opening of Prokofiev 1 is absolutely bewitching. In very little time at all, the mood and the color are set in a way that is delicate as well as thoroughly descriptive. In terms of sheer impact, nothing compares to the opening of Brahms in my opinion. I feel like the violin comes in to say "I mean business, so get on board or back off!".
November 10, 2019, 8:55 PM · I am surprised nobody has mentioned Mendelssohn yet (e-minor of course, not d-minor!). It was quite radical, even visionary, at the time to do away entirely with the opening tutti. On top of that the beginning manages to establish fully the nervous, driving energy that permeates the entire movement (and many other movements by Mendelssohn).
November 11, 2019, 5:00 AM · (soloist) Mozart V. The simplest and yet most profound opening of them all. The Adagio is almost a concerto on its own.
November 11, 2019, 6:04 AM · Firm favourites for me are the Sibelius, Mendelssohn, but actually, one of my favourite concertos of all time is the Elgar Cello Concerto. I am excited to hear the recording Sheku Kenneh-Mason has done. He is a fantastic cellist.
I also have a real soft spot for the Mozart concertos, I really enjoyed playing them as a teenager too.
November 11, 2019, 3:40 PM · I’ve gotta go with the Berg. With the Berg you get one last chance to check your open string tunings as you’re starting the piece! ;-D
November 11, 2019, 8:58 PM · Haha. Thats funny
November 12, 2019, 6:16 PM · Another good one which I like a lot is the opening of Paganini's 2nd Concerto. It sounds like a curtain opening on a dramatic opera, and opera of course was Paganini's aesthetic model.
November 12, 2019, 7:37 PM · I love the opening of the Barber, which always sounds to me like spring blooming out all at once.
November 13, 2019, 10:44 AM · I'm quite fond of the Mieczyslaw Karlowicz concerto's opening, though there's stuff I probably like better.

November 13, 2019, 11:37 AM · I too like the opening bars of Barber's concerto. It takes you straight into the world of the piece with a beguiling violin melody.
Also like Prokofiev 1 - somewhere between romantic and something a bit harder. Superb. And Beethoven.
November 13, 2019, 3:12 PM · Paganini 1., Korngold, Mozart 3., Tchaikovsky op 35. ...
Edited: November 26, 2019, 7:07 PM · The opening of the Wieniawski #1 makes me think of a cocky teenager, full of youthful bravado and exuberance, confidently yelling out to the world that he's now the greatest violinist on the planet. What else might a 17 year old violin genius like Henryk Wieniawski be thinking with an opening like that?
November 13, 2019, 6:17 PM · I really like Wieniawski no 1. One of my all time favourite concertos
November 13, 2019, 8:57 PM · Ginastera.

It's direct, powerful, and doesn't have a hackneyed 3 minute orchestral tutti preceding it.

November 22, 2019, 5:37 PM · I would say Lalo'SE or the Mendelssohn in E minor.
IF we can put this as a concerto , I would say Schubert's rondo in A major (during 16 min)


Edited: November 22, 2019, 8:17 PM · I love Mendelssohn's Intermezzo from Midsummer Nights Dream- the way it evokes wisps of wind and rushing leaves and fireflies and nights in the woods. I must admit that it sounds curiously more like Autumn than a Midsummer's Night though. I even wrote a script scene around it once, but I had to leave Arizona before it could be produced- not the right mood I guess.

November 22, 2019, 9:14 PM · I like Tchaikovsky. Does the opening melody (played by the strings) reappear in another form? I’m not sure it does. The orchestras crescendo gives me goosebumps. But there is a relaxed feeling when the solo violin enters.
November 24, 2019, 3:14 PM · Glazunov
November 25, 2019, 1:01 PM · Are we talking about general openings or violinist openings? My favorite is Brahms but seeing as this is a violinist forum that may be a little bit of a cop out.
November 25, 2019, 7:06 PM · Vieuxtemps 5 and Wieniawski 1 are beautiful and dramatic openings for the solo part.

Mendelssohn is a classic for an opening, the solo introducing the main theme. Gorgeous entrance.

Brahms has a great solo opening, and so does the amazing violin intro for the Dvorak.

In short, too many to mention. Being a fan of the violin makes it hard to single out a favorite. Still, I love the sheer drama and virtuosity of the aforementioned Vieuxtemps and Wieniawski concertos.

December 3, 2019, 2:49 PM · Here's a tip of the hat to Tom Allen of the CBC, who once sang the opening notes to the final movement of the violin concerto by...

Johannes BRAHMS!

December 10, 2019, 8:28 PM · If we are talking about entrances, Brahms is definitely up there. I also love Sibelius and along side Weiniawksi (I think I spelt his name wrong) #1, which is hellishly difficult (excuse me language)

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