Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto

Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, is his last large orchestral work. It forms an important part of the violin repertoire and is one of the most popular and most frequently performed violin concertos of all time. A typical performance lasts just under half an hour.

Mendelssohn (the portrait alongside is by James Warren Childe, 1839) originally proposed the idea of the violin concerto to Ferdinand David, a close friend and then concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Although conceived in 1838, the work took another six years to complete and was not premiered by David with Niels Gade conducting until March 13, 1845 – today’s date! During this time, Mendelssohn maintained a regular correspondence with David, who gave him many suggestions. The work itself was one of the foremost violin concertos of the Romantic era and influenced many other composers.

The concerto consists of three movements: I. Allegro molto appassionata. II. Andante. III. Allegretto non troppo; Allegretto molto vivace, in a standard fast–slow–fast structure and each movement follows a traditional form. But the concerto was innovative and included many novel features for its time. Distinctive aspects include the almost immediate entrance of the violin at the beginning of the work (rather than following an orchestral preview of the first movement’s major themes, as was typical in Classical-era concertos) and the ‘through-composed’ form of the concerto as a whole, in which the three movements are melodically and harmonically connected and played attacca (each movement immediately following the previous one).

The concerto was well received and soon became regarded as one of the greatest violin concertos of all time. The concerto remains popular to this day and has developed a reputation as an essential concerto for all aspiring concert violinists to master, and usually one of the first Romantic era concertos they learn. Many professional violinists have recorded the concerto and the work is regularly performed in concerts and classical music competitions. Here on YouTube is the German violinist, Anne Sophie-Mutter with Kurt Masur conducting the Gewandhausorchester, Leipzig, in one of the most beautiful renditions of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

References
Wikipedia, Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewen

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