Concertos are among the most essential repertoire in classical music. Specifically the Baroque concertos have played a major role in the development of classical music and they've revolutionized classical music as a whole. Here is a selection of the Top 10 Greatest Baroque pieces.
One of the big differences between Baroque concertos and the more modern ones, is the use of instruments. What will become apparent in this list, is that Baroque composers tend to make use of several solo instruments, called a concertino (with the full orchestra being called the Concerto Grosso), with the more modern take being the solo-concerto with one soloist leading the accompanying orchestra.
In the Early-Baroque period, the orchestra can be seen as a group of soloists with each playing independent parts with a development in which there became an increasingly bigger difference in the role of the soloist and the orchestra, to the point where the solo-concertos are made the norm.
Some of the most famous Baroque composers are Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel, Georg Philipp Telemann and Arcangelo Corelli.
1. Vivaldi - Violin Concerto in A minor No. 6 Op. 3 RV 356
It is one of the most popular concertos composed by Vivaldi and you're very likely to already know it. It's often used as a practice piece, but the real potential is showcased by one of the greatest violinists in history: Itzhak Perlman. It's high view count is self-explanatory.
2. Bach - Double Violin Concerto in D minor BWV 1043
This concerto is written for strings and basso continuo and is largely considered the greatest example of what the late Baroque period constitutes. It made its way into standard violin repertoire which is well deserved. There is a constant interaction within the piece with a vast amount of question and answer, which can already be traced back to the first couple of bars. It was later written for the harpsichord too.
3. Marcello - Oboe Concerto in D minor
This is one of the most famous oboe concertos in history. It is an early 18th-century concerto for oboe, strings and continuo (cello and double bass). Part of this concerto was an extant manuscript of bach's work from 1715: BWV 974 as a solo keyboard arrangement. Alessandro Marcello decided to bring it to its full potential as a concerto in 1917, just two years later. This proved to be a huge succes.
4. Albinoni - Oboe Concerto No. 2 in D Minor Op. 9
This concerto is known for its slow movement and it is one of the most recognizable pieces written by Albinoni, which was one of the first composers to write for the, at the time newly emerging instrument, the oboe. He dedicated this piece to the ruler of Bavaria and a Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire: Maximilian II Emanuel.
5. Bach - Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 in D Minor BWV 1052
The earliest version of the orchestral part of this concerto was actually written by Johann Sebastian Bach's son: Carl Philipp Emanuel. This is known as BWV 1052a. The definitive version (BWV 1052) is the first of a series of harpsichord concertos and also came to be the most wel known one.
6. Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major BWV 1050
The Brandenburg Concertos written by Johann Sebastian Bach are a prime example of a concerto grosso, in which a small group of soloists are leading the melody. Here, the concertino is a flute, a violin, and a harpsichord with an accompanying role also.
7. Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major BWV 1048
Although concerti grossi are popular with Baroque composers like Bach, this is an example of a concerto without distinction between the soloist and the orchestral instruments which includes three violins, three violas and three cellos, which is rather unusual for a composer like Bach.
8. Vivaldi - Flautino Concerto RV 443
This is one of the three flautino concertos composed by Antonio Vivaldi. It was written for the Ospedale della Pietà, which was a convent, orphanage, and music school in Venice. Vivaldi used to regularly compose works for the orphans in there and they began to gain appreciation and esteem abroad. The Flautino was a common used instrument in the Baroque period.
9. Corelli - Concerto No. 4 in D Major Op. 6
One of the founding fathers of the concerto grosso. It is here, where the different roles in the orchestra became apparent with the two violins, a cello and harpsichord as the concertino. A typical instrument used in this period was the archlute. It often provided a melodic bass-line for pieces like these, which explains the long neck.
10. Telemann: Concerto for Traverso and Recorder in E minor, TWV 52:e1
Georg Philipp Telemann is said to be one of the most productive composers in history. He was a teacher, composer, performer and played several instruments including the flute, oboe, violin, viola da gamba, recorder, double bass and more. All of that knowledge and experience resulted in the making of this concerto. It includes typical baroque instruments like the traverso and the Baroque guitar.
You left out the concerti grossi of Handel, opus 3 and opus 6. I first became acquainted with these works, played by the Boyd Neel Orchestra, which is the best interpretation I know of. These are utterly sublime works ... and I know of no other set of concertos which equals them.