Classical Concerto


Unlike symphonies (and sonatas, quartets, etc.) the concerto retained the 3-movement "fast-slow-fast" structure from the Baroque concerto.

Movement Tempo Form
First Fast Usually a modified sonata form
Second Slow Often a simpler form (e.g. ternary)
Third Fast Usually sonata-rondo form

Sonata Form in Concertos

In a classical concerto, the first movement frequently features a double exposition - an orchestral exposition and a solo exposition.

Orchestral Exposition

The orchestral exposition does not feature the soloist.

It normally features a full standard sonata exposition of two subjects with a transition and a codetta. Crucially, it remains in the tonic key throughout - like the recapitulation of a standard sonata form, this means that the transition does not modulate.

Solo Exposition

The solo exposition features the soloist interacting with the orchestra.

It normally includes all the parts of a full standard sonata exposition, like the orchestral exposition. There is normally an additional orchestral ritornello. Crucially, it uses the normal contrasts in key seen in sonata form.

Section Performed By Key
First solo subject Soloist and orchestra Tonic
Transition Soloist and orchestra Modulation to dominant or relative minor
Second subject Soloist and orchestra Dominant or relative minor
Middle ritornello Orchestra only Dominant
Codetta Soloist and orchestra Dominant or relative minor