A concert is essentially a live musical performance in public before an audience. The performance can be by just a single artist, sometimes known as a recital, or sometimes by a larger musical group, like a band, choir, or orchestra. Sometimes there is also a prize awarded to the best performing artist or group. Concerts are popular because they allow a large number of people to enjoy the music in a relatively short amount of time.
Most people know what a concert means, but not everyone is familiar with the etymology of the word. This is a technical term that has a slightly different meaning than in most English language dictionaries. The root word for concert is “the concert,” while the derivatives are “play” and “concert hall.” Both words imply activity, but concert in its etymology suggests a formal venue while play suggests a creative outlet.
Historically, music concerts were often recitals held before an assembled audience in a hall, with a pre-concert recital performed beforehand in a professional theater. Because the word concert means “action or motion” and because music is seen as “singing” or “dancing”, this became the most common form of performing arts entertainment. In modern times, a concert refers to a single musical performance, regardless of size or content. But the word concert and the concept of a concert hall continue to have parallel meanings.
Classical music concert and recital examples include Handel’s “Water Music”, Handel’s “Water Music No. 5” and Berlioz’s “Water Music No. 7”. In general, a classical recital includes at least three major compositions: a theme, a main body, and a secondary theme or accompaniment.
A second type of concert, and often the first choice for new beginners, is a chamber music concert. The term concert comes from the German word concertra, which means “open house.” This form of performance involves a small number of musicians playing instruments individually or as a group. Often, the repertoire will be smaller than that of a classical music concert, and contemporary chamber music recitals can be less formal than a concert held at a hall.
The third type of concert, which is the most popular, is instrumental. Unlike vocal concert, in which there are a vocalist and an instrumentalist, instrumental recitals usually require a string quartet, a chamber orchestra or a band. Because of their limited number of instruments, instrumental concerts tend to have a greater depth of sound and a wider range of orchestration than other types of concerts. An example of this type of concert would be chamber music concert No. 4, a composition byworks of Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and others.
An additional kind of concert, popular with professionals and those who appreciate music as an art form, is opera. Opera derives from the Italian word operata, which means “playing the same”. In its most commonly performed form, opera relies on a plot, a cast of characters and a plot line, which link them all together. Opera composers write symphonies instead of operas, and while some may choose to write both types of music, others only do one.
With the etymology of the concert, we can derive the English meaning of the term from the French word concert, which means “common assembly”. We also know that in the early days, a concert was a meeting of people from different places, where different musical forms were played. It is interesting to note that the English word concert did not originate from this event, but from another one. Its etymology comes from the Greek word concertos, meaning “a gathering together.” From this root, we can derive “concert” from “common assembly”, and the idea of a musical gathering from this early period can be seen to parallel the evolution of music from the time of the orchestra to today.