Concerto in E Minor for Violin and Orchestra

By Felix Mendelssohn
Composed in 1844

This concerto is certainly one of the most familiar, and best-loved, works in the entire violin repertoire. It was composed in 1844 expressly for the violin virtuoso Ferdinand David and performed in Leipzig the following year.

Its three movements are essentially meant to be played without pause (although there is a slight break between the second and third movements). After a one-measure introduction, the famous opening theme is introduced by the solo violin, and gradually picked up by the entire orchestra. A lyrical theme is introduced by the winds midway through the movement; the cadenza makes an early appearance, leading to the recapitulation of the opening theme.

The second movement is essentially a “song without words,” simple and hauntingly beautiful. After a restless introduction, the solo violin introduces the last movement’s theme – an elf-like motif, evocative of Mendelssohn’s incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A second robust orchestral motif makes its appearance; Mendelssohn thoroughly mixes the two themes in the contrapuntal section that follows. A triumphant coda brings the concerto to a close.