Know Your Piano Concertos!

For the last couple of weekends I’ve been playing lots of piano concertos – not as a soloist, of course – but in the horn sections of the Rapides Symphony Orchestra and the Monroe Symphony Orchestra.  Every other year the RSO provides live accompaniment for the final round of the Louisiana International Piano Competition.  This competition brings in some really phenomenal young soloists, and over the course of several seasons with the RSO I’ve gotten to know a good bit of the major piano repertoire.  These works and others are standard fare for most orchestras, and many of them have important horn solos and section passages.  To my knowledge, piano is still the most popular solo instrument to feature with an orchestra, and there is no shortage of great music for that combination.  Regardless of the size or quality of the orchestra you play with, you’ll probably perform at least some of these works, and several of them have horn solos which appear on audition lists.  In short, you should definitely be familiar with as many of these concertos as possible – not just because they have important horn parts, but also because they are major works in the orchestral repertoire.  To close out this post I’ve included two lists – the first is piano concertos which I’ve seen on horn audition lists, and the second is piano concertos with prominent solo or section passages for the horn.  It’s not exhaustive, but representative.  If you know of another piano concerto that should be on either list feel free to comment below.

Piano Concertos on Horn Auditions

  • Beethoven, Concerto No. 5, “Emperor”
  • Brahms,  Concerto No. 1
  • Brahms,  Concerto No. 2
  • Rachmaninov,  Concerto No. 2
  • Ravel, Concerto in G

Piano Concertos with Prominent Horn Parts

  • everything on the above list, plus…
  • Beethoven, Concerto No. 4
  • Chopin, Concerto No. 1
  • de Falla, Noches en los Jardines de España
  • Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue
  • Grieg, Concerto
  • Liszt, Concerto  No. 1
  • Liszt, Totentanz
  • Mozart, Concerto, K. 488
  • Prokofiev, Concerto No. 1
  • Rachmaninov, Concerto No. 1
  • Rachmaninov, Concerto No. 3
  • Rachmaninov, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
  • Saint-Saëns, Concerto No. 2
  • Schumann, Concerto
  • Stravinsky, Concerto for Piano and Winds
  • Tchaikovsky, Concerto No. 1

About the Author

Posted by


Something else bears mentioning. The concerto on a symphony concert often gets less rehearsal time as compared to the major work on the second half, especially if it is a warhorse or chestnut that “everyone knows.” And the concerto is often played by the associate principal. So, especially if you are the associate, unless you know the piece well before hand, there’s a risk of getting caught inadequately prepared with really important music to play.


Don’t forget Shostakovich’s Second! The music is still rental I believe so copy it when you can! I still loose sleep after having to sight read that at a first rehearsal years ago and regret not copying the parts while I had them.


Add a Response

Your name, email address, and comment are required. We will not publish your email.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

The following HTML tags can be used in the comment field: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <pre> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: