Violin Concerto Keys

November 18, 2019, 5:25 PM · In his 1928 two-volume work, The Violin Concerto, Frederic Emery lists all the concertos he has found in his researches, by keys.

There were about 125 in the key of D Major and about 90 in the key of A Major. There are also about 90 in the key of D Minor and about 70 in the key of A Minor. There are about 50 each in the keys of G Major and Minor and E Major and Minor.

G,D,A,E are the strings of the violin.

There are also some 50 concertos in C Major, but only a handful in the other 9 keys in which concertos were written up to that time.

Francesca Deflorian wrote a thesis for Rice University in 2005 noting that Marco Anzoletti (1866-1929) composed violin concertos in 13 keys, including two not listed by Emery. She describes some of his key choices as inexplicable. But Anzoletti composed in every musical genre known at the time. Was he also trying to compose a violin concerto in every key? (He was a violinist).

I have not found this written down anywhere, but it seems to me plain that the overwhelming preponderance of D and A concertos arises from the fact that they are the two top strings on the violin (G and E being the others).

Is the huge number of violin concertos in D and A explained by the fact that they are the easiest keys for the violin because of the strings or the fact that the D and A are the best keys for the instrument which is the violin? I'm pretty sure it is the latter, but I haven't seen that written anywhere either. This is one of the many things that is discussed in my book, A Biography of the Solo Violin Concerto.


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