What Is a Violin Concerto?

A violin concerto is a piece of music written for a solo violin and an instrumental ensemble, usually a full orchestra, to accompany it. Some concertos are written for a small chamber ensemble of four or five string musicians, while others are written for two or three principal violins. This type of piece is frequently regarded as a standard of classical music, and many concertos are well-known among violinists of all levels. An accomplished violinist’s performance of a violin concerto is frequently viewed as an opportunity to demonstrate both technical skill and emotional interpretation of the music.

The violin concerto has its roots in the Baroque era, which lasted from the 1600s to the mid-1700s. The structure of the concerto is one example of how classical composers of this period expanded the scope and complexity of musical notation and playing techniques. The first violin concertos were composed in three movements, each with its own melody, harmony, and mood. Concertos were later expanded to four movements and included a cadenza, an improvisational section. Solo violin cadenzas can be written into the musical score ahead of time or developed on the spot a skilled violinist during a performance.

Early violin concertos were written Baroque composers who wanted to create a new type of music that was purely instrumental and distinct from the cantata, a previously dominant form of music that included singers as well as orchestra musicians. The violin’s growing popularity as a solo instrument allowed these composers to experiment with writing notations for only this instrument rather than a group of vocalists. The term “concerto” was coined to describe a simple piece of music without a vocal section, but the violin concerto quickly evolved into a complex work in which the violinist, not the singer, is the focal point of a musical performance.

The Mendelssohn violin concerto in E minor is a well-known piece of music that exemplifies the concerto’s complexities and artistic virtuosity. This composer recognized that the violin’s sound is the most similar to that of a human singing voice, so he wrote this concerto to highlight it as much as possible. The piece is known for its intricate melodies, which are primarily played on the violin’s E string, and it is still a popular choice for both students and professionals to master.