Concerto tournament -- what are the best violin concertos?

February 22, 2012 at 09:03 PM · We're going to have a violin concerto 'tournament' during the NCAA Mad Marchness. So I need everyone's favorite 16! This is just for FUN, to get us yammering about concerti and why we like them. :) Starting March 12, I'll put up a vote every day, and in the end, we'll have our 'top concerto.' Please remember, it's mostly a little experiment in fun! So list your favorites here, to help me "seed" the tournament.

I'll start things off with a few that come to mind for me:

Beethoven Violin Concerto






Mozart 3, 4, 5

Prokofiev 1 and 2



Bach A minor

Vivaldi G minor, A minor

Okay, please contribute and let me know which you'd like at the top!


February 22, 2012 at 10:53 PM · Hi, Laurie: Now you're getting to my best musical talent - appreciating. It's tough ranking them, though (it's like trying to rank order your children), goes:

1. Beethoven

2. Brahms

3. Bach Double

4. Tchaikovsky

5. Bartok #2

6. Mozart #5

7. Viotti #22

8. Mendelssohn

9. Paganini #2

10. Shostakovich #1

11. Elgar

12. Barber

13. Prokofiev #2

14. Goldmark

15. Vivaldi Winter (or any one of hundreds of others)

16. Dvorak

Too bad we're limited to 16, and that we have to rank them. I'm sure my ranking will change based on what I've heard most recently. However, Beethoven will always be #1, and Viotti 22 is constantly moving up in the standings.



February 23, 2012 at 01:27 AM · I don't know if this can be considered a concerto, but...

Symphony Espagnole by Lalo.

February 23, 2012 at 02:40 AM · Very good, keep 'em coming!

February 23, 2012 at 03:36 AM · #1 Tchaikovsky

#2 Dvorak Romance in F-minor

#3 Mozart 4

#4 Zigeunerweison

#5 Saint Saens 3

#6 Glazunov

#7 Barber

#8 Sibelius

#9 Ravel's Tzigane

#10 Khatchaturian

#11 Symphonie Espagnole

#12 Mendelssohn

#13 Bruch no 2

#14 Beethoven

#15 Bruch no 1

#16 Shostocovich (I misspeslled it wow)

February 23, 2012 at 04:12 AM · Not in strict order:

1. Tchaikovsky

2. Prokofiev #2

3. Sibelius

4. Schoenberg (I'm NOT kidding)

5. Bernstein (if the Serenade counts)

6. Bartok #2

7. Dutilleux

8. Britten

9. Haydn (C major)

10. William Schuman

11. Shostakovich #1

12. Vasks

13. Shostakovich #2

14. Mozart #2

15. Brahms

16. Beethoven

February 23, 2012 at 10:46 AM · Well, from an old listener not a player:

1 Tchaikovsky

2 Sibelius

3 Rakov 1

4 Taktakishvili 1

5 Mendelssohn

6 Miaskovsky

7 Kabalevsky

8 Glazunov

9 Elgar

0 Mozart 5

1 Korngold

2 Lalo S.E.

3 Taneyev Suite

4 Brahms

5 Lalo "russe"

6 Mendelsshon D minor

Not on preference order.

February 23, 2012 at 10:53 AM · 1. Earl Kim (The only concerto that actually put me into trance)

2. Penderecki 1 (Really underrated concerto, A true challenge for both the violinist and the orchestra)

3. Penderecki 2

4. Gubaidulina-Offertorium (Should be played a lot faster and dynamic then Dutoit´s recording I think)

5. Gubaidulina-In Tempus Presens

6. Beethoven

7. Tchaikovsky

8. Schoenberg

9. Ligeti (Difficult to listen to for sure but really original and demanding in every way)

10. Mozart 4

11. Gruenberg Concerto (Technically demanding for sure and underrated)


13.Barber (Hilary Hahn is only one I have heard that plays the final the way it should be played I think)

14. Sibelius

15. Brahms

16. Bartok 2

February 23, 2012 at 11:36 AM · no particular order!




Mozart 5




Prokofiev 1

Prokofiev 2



Vivaldi "Winter"





February 23, 2012 at 01:21 PM · Nifty idea! In rough order by period:

1. Bach Double

2. Mozart Sinfonie Concertante

3. Mozart A Major

4. Beethoven

5. Mendelssohn

6. Schumann

7. Brahms Double

8. Bruch 1

9. Tchaikovsky

10. Lalo Symphony Espagnole

11. Saint-Saens 3

12. Sibelius

13. Prokoviev 1

14. Bartok 2

15. Barber

16. Shostakovich 1

As for the Round Ball Tourny, Go Big Blue!

February 23, 2012 at 01:40 PM · Sibelius !!!

How could I have forgotten Sibelius. It's right up there in the top 5 (which probably is the top 25. Oh, how does one choose?)

February 23, 2012 at 01:49 PM · The Berg hasn't been mentioned yet and I really like that piece.

February 23, 2012 at 05:13 PM · I am an adult beginner, and I've only played a few concertos or movements from concertos: Seitz, and Vivaldi A minor. Any hope of having a beginner's sixteen that those of us just starting down this road can aspire to, but maybe get to a little sooner than many of those wonderful concertos already mentioned?


February 23, 2012 at 05:26 PM · I can't believe no one mentioned the "KING" of violin concertos: Accolay A minor!

February 23, 2012 at 06:02 PM · I would like to add Conus and Hubay 1-4 to this list.

February 24, 2012 at 12:06 AM · I think Beethoven's 3 point shooting will win out over the Brahms interior defense. Tchaikovsky is a real powerhouse - they could surprise with their 3-2 zone. But since this is, I put the Britten in as a sleeper pick. :)






Bach Double

Mozart 3, 4, 5


Prokofiev 1 and 2




Goldmark (in place of Vivaldi 4 Seasons)

Sorry, Conus is not even a Division I team. Although the Hubay definitely has a very enthusiastic student section. :)

February 24, 2012 at 01:51 AM · Shostakovich 2 > all

c'mon guys get with the program.

February 24, 2012 at 02:02 AM · I picked:

1. Bach A-minor

2. Bach E-major

3. Bach Double

4. Beethoven

5. Brahms

6. Bruch Scottish Fantasy

7. Bruch 1

8. Mendelssohn E-minor

9. Mozart 4

10. Mozart 5

11. Paganini 1

12. Sibelius

13. Tchaikovsky

14. Vivaldi Four Seasons

15. Vieuxtemps #4

16. Wieniawski #2

February 24, 2012 at 03:43 AM · 1. Lalo Symphony Espagnole

2. Mendelssohn

3. Bruch

4. Kabalevsky

5. Dvorak

6. Prokofiev 1

7. Wieniawski 2

8. Korngold

9. Beethoven

10. Mozart Sinfonia Concertante

11. Bach E Major

12. Bach Double

13. Bach A minor

14. Mozart 3

15. Vieuxtemps 5

16. Haydn G Major

February 24, 2012 at 03:21 PM · 1. Mozart 3

2. Bach Double

3. Mendelssohn

4. Mozart 5

5. Beethoven

6. Ziguenerweisen (lemme fudge, just this once)

7. Tchaikovsky

8. Brahms

9. Sibelius

10. Glazunov

11. Mozart 2

12. Mozart 4

13. Wieniawski

14. Bach E Major

15. Vivaldi Four Seasons

16. Seitz student concertos

What, no Bruch? Well, yeah. I just don't know where to put that one. I think the Seitz are just plain fun to play and to hear, even though they are lowly student concertos.

Mendelssohn is definitely toward the top, since the first time I heard it on recording by Francescatti.

The Four Seasons could be higher, but I'm starting to get a little tired of hearing it all the time. It's now on my "rationed music" list.

February 24, 2012 at 03:30 PM · 1. Sibelius

2. The Lark Ascending

3. Shostakovich 1

4. Elgar

5. Tchaikovsky

6. Beethoven

7. Mendelssohn

8. Bruch 1

9. Bach Double

10. Mozart 3

11. Britten

12. Vivaldi Winter

13. Bach E Major

14. Brahms

15. Glazunov

16. Higdon

February 24, 2012 at 03:48 PM · 1. Mozart 3

2. Beethoven

3. Mendelssohn

4. Schoenberg

5. Bach Double

6. Bach A Minor

7. Sibelius

8. Vivaldi Four Seasons

9. Mozart 4

10. Haydn G Major

11. Bach E Major

12. Bruch

13. O’Connor Double

14. Khachaturian

15. Glass 2

16. Barber

Maybe the student concertos should be the NIT.

Accolay A minor

Seitz Concertos

de Beriot Concertos

Kuchler Concertino

Mendelssohn student concerto D Major


February 24, 2012 at 05:00 PM · NIT concertos:

1. Vivaldi A Minor

2. Vivaldi G Minor

3. Vivaldi Double, D Minor

4. Seitz #2

5. Seitz #5

6. Seitz #4

7. Kuchler Op. 15

8. Rieding "Hungarian" Op. 21

9. Huber #4

10. Huber #2

11. Perlman "Indian" Concerto

12. Accolay

13. DeBeriot #7

14. DeBeriot #9

15. Viotti #22

16. Viotti #23


February 24, 2012 at 05:49 PM · @Anne: Perfect!

February 24, 2012 at 08:10 PM · The Bachrahmendmozpagasibeetovenskyshosbartvaldi Concerto is definitely the greatest.

February 24, 2012 at 08:30 PM · But only if Heifetz is playing it.

February 24, 2012 at 08:32 PM · Yeah, but Heifetz is too cold to bring out the warmth in the score, especially the famous "schmalzando" passage before the Cadenza.

February 24, 2012 at 08:51 PM · Heifitz can't dribble to his left, except maybe down his chin.

February 24, 2012 at 08:52 PM · It would get all over his violin.

February 24, 2012 at 10:03 PM · 1. Mendelssohn

2. Beethoven

3. Tchaikovsky

4. Sibelius

5. Mozart 5

6. Mozart 4

7. Bartok 2

8. Bruch

9. Wieniawski 2

10. Barber

11. Brahms

12. Saint-Saens

13. Bach Double

14. Vivaldi Four Seasons

15. Prokofiev 1

16. Shostakovich 1

February 25, 2012 at 12:40 AM · Laurie,

I think you should set up a real tournament, with pairings. People will vote on their favorites. We can score the results.

The second part is we should actually setup a bracket and have people pick winners all the way to the final. The prize can be something like Lara St. John's CD, or something like that. It would be like a real March Madness office pool. For instance, 1 pt for picking a round 1 winner, 2 for round 2, 3 for round 3, 4 pts for picking the finals winner. The person with the most points is declared the winner.


Go Beethoven!

February 25, 2012 at 04:47 AM · 1. Mendelssohn!!!

2. Tchaikovsky

3. Sibelius

4. Brahms

5. Barber

6. Symphonie Espagnole

7. Shostakovich

8. Bruch

9. Saint Saens 3

10. Strauss (Can't believe no one has mentioned!)

11. Beethoven

12. Bach A Minor

13. Paganini 1

14. Paganini 4

15. Mozart 4

16. Prokofiev 2

February 25, 2012 at 08:05 PM · I find it amazing that only Sander mentioned the Goldmark. I remember Milstein playing it in Long Beach Calif when I was very young. It stuck with me ever since. He really owned that concerto but unfortunately it hasn't the popularity it richly deserves. I found it the other day on Youtube with Milstein playing--it gave me goose bumps. Charles Bott

February 26, 2012 at 12:25 AM · There are tons of worthy violin concertos out there. But there's no way that Goldmark would get enough votes to beat out a more established concerto. Sorry, just being practical here...

February 26, 2012 at 12:58 AM · @ Terry - I think Laurie is going to do such a thing. She just needs to hear from us which 16 to include on the docket. (Right, Laurie?)

My 16...

Bach Double (slow movement alone qualifies it)

Mozart 5 (violin arias full of youthful beauty and mischief)

Beethoven (who knew scales could be so profound?; also, incidentally, the greatest violin concerto)

Brahms (the most life-affirming of them all)

Bruch 1 (lush Victorian romanticism)

Dvorak (a joyful abundance of melody)

Mendelssohn (refined, romantic elegance)

Tchaikovsky (exuberant passion)

Sibelius (moonlit rocky crags)

Britten (a journey)

Prokofiev 1 (a Russian fairy-tale!)

Shostakovich 1 (a Russian nightmare)

Elgar (an epic English love story)

Barber (American romanticism at its very best)

Bartok 2 (sheer emotional and compositional complexity)

Walton (a sentimental favorite of mine; can't believe nobody's listed it yet! go, Walton!)

Ones I love that didn't break the top 16 - Bernstein Serenade, the other Bachs and Mozarts, Mozart Sinfonia Concertante, Four Seasons, Wieniawski 2, Khachaturian, Paganini, Symphonie Espagnole, Korngold, Lark Ascending, Berg (really need to listen to this one more), Scottish Fantasy, Nielsen...ugh, too many. And that's not even touching the rarer masterworks (like Coleridge-Taylor). What a legacy we have.

February 26, 2012 at 01:31 AM · I've run basketball pools before and found the following rules made things a little more interesting.

Upset points: one additional point if you pick an upset. For example, if a 5 seed beats a 1 seed, and you pick the 5 seed, you get an additional 1/2 point.

Cheeseburger team: a 9 - 16 seed that you pick to go the farthest in the tournament. If yours goes the farthest you add 3 points. If two teams (er, concertos) tie, the one with the higher seed wins the tiebreak.

February 26, 2012 at 01:31 AM · Terry, yes we are already planning to do the first part of your idea. Now about the office pool...hmmm that could be fun! And I do have some things I could give as prizes... Let me put the genius statistician hubby on this and we'll figure out how to do it!

February 27, 2012 at 12:27 AM · Charles,

the leader of the orchestra when the Goldmark wa sbeing recorded was Hugh Bean. He told me that Milstein complainerd of a miserable cold on that day. And that the way Milstein then played the opening of the second movement was the `ultimate representation of violin playing` .



February 27, 2012 at 02:00 AM · Charles, Buri,

Just finished listening to Milstein's Goldmark concerto. OMG, it's simply amazing. Absolutely stunning, clear, brilliant expressive playing.

I don't think it would beat Vivaldi in a voting contest, but I would certainly place it quite highly in any ranking of violin concertos. But for purposes of this ranking, I've put it in at #16.


February 27, 2012 at 06:59 AM · I can't think what would disqualify Conus. Also this list needs Ernst.

February 27, 2012 at 04:27 PM · Thanks to those who posted some easier concertos for those of us who are not yet so far along!

February 27, 2012 at 04:46 PM · Ann:

None of us said we could actually PLAY all of them on our lists. :-)


February 27, 2012 at 05:28 PM · Hey Wayne, Anne: lets make a new list for concertos with the rule that you can only include ones where you can play at least one movement at (at least) 3/4 final speed.

I bet we don't get many votes for Paganini or Elgar or...

February 27, 2012 at 05:36 PM · Michael,

No disrespect to the Conus. I guess basketball descriptors don't work all that well for violin concertos. Especially since I can't really vouch for Conus' man to man defense since I've never really seen (or heard) them play. ;)

I think there's something about the NIT of violin concertos for those that are actually playable for most of us earlier in this thread.


February 28, 2012 at 11:17 AM · Mendelssohn


Mozart 3, 4 & 5



Schumann D minor

Bach Double, A minor & E major


Bruch 1


Vaughan Williams Concerto Accademico

Prokofiev 2

Elgar appears here because IMO it is underplayed and performing it more frequently would redress the balance between it and his cello concerto, which - while a great work - is IMO overplayed/overbroadcast (at least here in Great Britain). Schumann D minor deserves a mention: I don't go big on the last movement but the first movement is vintage Schumann despite its foursquare orchestration. Bruch 1 is on my list because it typifies Romantic violin concertos. Again, without doubt a great work but IMO overplayed/overbroadcast compared with some other concertos on my list. Don't overlook Vaughan Williams' Concerto Accademico. Though it has only a string orchestra, it takes account of older concerto models in such a way as to be to violin concertos what Prokofiev's 1st symphony is to symphonies.

Edit: May I be allowed a 17th concerto? I forgot Dvorak.

February 28, 2012 at 11:53 AM · It's got to be the Walton (as played by Mr Heifetz).

February 28, 2012 at 04:57 PM · Kids, we're gonna do this thing. I'll post the bracket on Monday, and Robert has even agreed to create a PDF printout so you can fill it out and e-mail me your winners for each round. Yes, there will be a contest, and we'll post the details on Monday. Fabulous prizes included!

February 28, 2012 at 04:58 PM · P.S. I'll base the bracket on your feedback here, along with my own violinististical judgment. You have until Friday to lobby more for your favorites!

February 28, 2012 at 06:35 PM · This should be televised. I'd love for there to be a "Selection Sunday" where Beethoven crawls out of his grave cheering upon hearing that he's the overall number one seed.

February 28, 2012 at 08:12 PM · 1. Bruch. Still in love with this piece.

2. Sibelius. 2nd movement blows me away.

Others are not necessariy in order--

3. Tchaikovsky--the first concerto I could identify as a kid

4. Barber

5. Edgar Meyer's--which I haven't listened to in an age since my CD got scratched, but great piece!!

6. Korngold

7. Shostakovich--wow.

8. Sinding Suite. This is actually way up at the top of my list, if it counts.

9. Lark Ascending

10. Beethoven

11. Brahms--should be up at the top, actually

12. Pick a Mozart, any Mozart! Probably #4 is my top....

13. vivaldi g major (op. 3 no. 3)

14. Rieding b minor!!! how's that for Suzuki-2 level quality music :)

15. Bach double

16. Saint-Saens 3

yes, I left out mendelssohn...somehow just never loved it so much...

February 29, 2012 at 11:37 PM · Ones that I didn't see. Maybe we can have more than sixteen...



Saint-Saens #1

Since we are listing concerto-length suites:

Suite Italienne

I bet we could get some of our more whimsically-minded concert violinists to do color commentary...Rachel, Lara, and Hilary, I'm lookin' at YOU!

March 1, 2012 at 01:35 AM · OMG, Tchaikovsky just went airborne for an elegant 360 slam, switched hands and powered it in with a major double stop sequence to go for the lead. And the crowd goes wild!!!!

Laurie, it would seem appropriate that we should have a "play-in" game to determine who will play the #1 seed. :)

March 1, 2012 at 12:15 PM · 1. Sibelius, hands down. Despite it being a terror.

2. Brahms. Still a terror.

3. Tchaikovsky.

4. Khachaturian.

5. Bruch. Short and relatively easier to play, but still musically tough.

6. Mozart's K218.

7. Saint-Saens No 2.

8. Prokofiev 1.

9. Mendelssohn.

10. Bach double.

11. Schumann.

12. Winter.

13. Accolay. With bittersweet memories of being forced to work on it for a year.

14. Viotti 22.

15. Schoenberg.

16. Korngold.

I think Sibby, Tchaik, Mendelssohn and Brahms are basically in EVERYONE's list.

I also think there's going to be a vast gap between "like to play" and "like to listen". IE: I LURVE listening to Paganini because the burden of nailing every note is definitely not on me (it's pleasant to be able to gloat at someone else's suffering once in a while... yes, I'm evil), but as soon as I'm the one suffering, not so much. Similarly, I love listening to Kremer's Mendelssohn 3rd movement, but when I play it it comes out with a thud, not merry tinkling of fairies.

March 1, 2012 at 02:19 PM · momoko - shurely an omission, you can't rank Accolay over Beethoven...

March 1, 2012 at 03:50 PM · I feel that the Bach E Major is woefully underrated compared to the Am, although, of course, the slow movement of the Am is very beautiful. Of the well-known baroque VCs, I'd put the E at the very top. It must be a very subtle thing, since very few modern recordings of it please me. There's a trick to it, but don't ask me what the trick is.

March 1, 2012 at 04:13 PM · Scott: I agree; the E Major seems to get little of the attention it deserves. There's an old recording by Zino Francescatti (yes, Zino Francescatti) that might be worth checking out.



March 2, 2012 at 04:56 AM · Elise: I do. I hate that concerto along with Haydn's C. I've only heard a handful where it didn't bore me into sleep.

It's also the only major concerto I didn't enjoy playing.

March 3, 2012 at 11:45 PM · Working on the seeds, and will have them to you Monday. And just so your imagination can wander, based on your feedback, Mr. Beethoven was not No. 1! Almost, but someone else had more popularity....

March 5, 2012 at 10:39 PM · Here it is! The scoop on the tournament:

And if you want to go straight to the tournament bracket printout:

March 6, 2012 at 12:58 AM · Everyone mentions Bruch, of course, but few specify which Bruch concerto. There are, in fact three, although both two and three are in D minor. The third is my personal favourite, by far.

March 6, 2012 at 01:50 AM · But Momoko - istn't that one of the most beautiful themes ever? Though I realize you have to get through a lot of scales to play it ... :D

Still, I stand corrected, you did mean it! I've never tried the Beethoven (highest I've had a shot at is the Bruch Gm, and that was a struggle) but the Accolay is near the bottom of my little list....

I don't think anyone included a Spohr. The #2 is a lovely piece.... (working on it...)

March 6, 2012 at 01:56 AM · Beethoven is the hardest, not because of the technique, but because of the pure boredom it induces if not played well. And BOY have I seen many renditions of it "not being played well"... it will cure any insomnia if used in clinical trials, I assure you.

That, and I hate Beethoven. Every single symphony of his induced me to sleeping in my chair or going on auto-pilot during rehearsals. And promptly getting yelled at.

March 6, 2012 at 03:06 AM · :o How can someone hate Beethoven! I never thought it was possible:) The Beethoven is probably my favorite.

March 6, 2012 at 09:03 AM · A lot of people do, actually. By the end of the rehearsal series before we performed Beethoven 6, we all hated it with a passion that was only unrivalled by our hatred of Otakar Sevcik.

March 6, 2012 at 05:59 PM · I think the real question here is how bad does Momoko want the bag. Because if she chooses Beethoven to lose in round one, she probably won't get the bag.

So what will it be Momoko? Do you follow your heart? Or does bag lust win out?

A classic philosophical argument. :)

March 6, 2012 at 07:41 PM · I am a female.

I'm going with the heart, actually. Bag is nice but honesty is nicer.

March 6, 2012 at 08:04 PM · My apologies Momoko, gender reference corrected in my earlier post.

I intend to predict winners based upon what I think people will pick, but I will vote on my favorite concertos from the heart.

March 6, 2012 at 08:53 PM · My favorites are what sane people will pick anyway so I have no problem:)

March 6, 2012 at 09:40 PM · Well, I guess it is called March "Madness" so sanity could be underrated. :)

March 6, 2012 at 09:42 PM · I'm sure there will be a lot of repetition, but I'll start with classics and maybe include a few a bit off the beaten path:

1. Beethoven*

2. Brahms*

3. Mendelssohn

4. Tchaikovsky

5. Sibelius

6. Elgar

7. Vivaldi Winter

8.Vieuxtemps #4

9." #5

10. Conus

11. Bruch #1

12. " #2 - can we count the Scottish fantasy as a concerto? if so, it might bump off #2

13. Viotti #22*

14. Spohr #8

15. Mozart #5* - the others too*, but I'm running out of room

16. Shoshtakovich #1

- I could go on, but 16 is the limit. On a different day, in a different mood, at a different phase of the moon, I might have listed others.

* all those marked with an asterisk, I've composed cadenzas for - making them sound better of course!

Favorite movements of concertos that didn't make my cut: Bach #2, 2nd, mvt.; Goldmark, 2nd mvt.; Barber, 1st and 2nd mvts.

Honorable mention: Joachim Hungarian Concerto, Hubay concerto #3 in g.

Auer called the Beethoven, Brahms, and Mendelssohn the 3 Master Concertos - and I think many would still agree. The Beethoven is probably the purest among the Master Concertos, whereas if I could have composed any of those 3 myself, it might have the Brahms.

But let's say I were to be told by a magic violin genie that there is good and bad news: the bad news is I would be allowed to perform only one more concerto in public. The good news is that I could perform it in Carnegie Hall and a few other very major centers, with any great orchestras and conductors of my choice, that I would play it as well as anyone who ever lived could possibly play it, and that it would be video-recorded in the highest quality for all time and be made very public - and lastly I get to choose the concerto. I think my choice would be the Sibelius.

March 8, 2012 at 05:31 PM · Raphael,

What do you think of the Britten? I just love that concerto. Also, I've never been a huge fan of Viotti #22. It's not bad, has some nice melodies, but just doesn't bowl me over.


March 8, 2012 at 05:48 PM · Beethoven, Elgar, Brahms, Mozart 5, Mendelssohn, Bruch, Prokofiev 2, Tchaikovsky, Barber, Sibelius, the Four Seasons, Shostakovich, Joachim.

Raphael - I love that you listed the Conus! No one seems to perform it anymore. I've dangled it in front of a few orchestras, and they always seem to say, "Thanks, but no thanks. How about Bruch?!"

March 8, 2012 at 09:38 PM · Terry - honestly, I'm not at all familiar with the Britten. Maybe it would behoove me to give it a listen. I'm in good company loving the Viotti - it was also a favorite of Brahms! For a long time I thought that Viotti only wrote two concertos, which he curiously named "22" and "23"! ;-)

Andrew - yes, the Conehead - er Conus concerto. I've loved it ever since I was bowled over by Heifetz' searing recording of it. I too, almost had a chance to play it with orchestra. Then it was to be Beethoven. Then the orchestra went out of business. Was it something I said?

March 9, 2012 at 12:34 AM · Like Terry, Viotti is not my thing, but Britten is a lot of fun, not that I can play it. Raphael. Exmaples below:

And an interesting masterclass given by Vengerov:

March 9, 2012 at 03:21 AM · Very interesting - thnaks Yixie! On a first hearing I found excitement, intensity, lyricism, and good orchestration. How did you embed all of that in your post, anyway?

A couple more runner-up candidates for my list: Glazanov, Berg, Korngold. And here's one most people don't know, but I've listened to it several times and really like it: Hilary Hahn's recording of the Edgar Meyer Concerto.

March 9, 2012 at 02:10 PM · So Laurie, how many entries are there for the concerto tournament right now? Do we need to encourage others to enter? Terry

March 10, 2012 at 03:03 PM · Raphael asked:

"...- can we count the Scottish fantasy as a concerto?"

I sure do!

March 10, 2012 at 04:37 PM · I really do, too. Same for the Lalo Symphonie Espagnol. We need longer lists!

March 11, 2012 at 04:21 AM · I just re-read Laurie's original thread - and there should be TWO lists...the "best" concerti and our "favorite" concerti...because there are probably guilty favorites that are exclusive of the other for thought.

March 12, 2012 at 05:48 PM · for some reason, you wouldnt let me vote. my vote is for Mozart.

March 12, 2012 at 08:40 PM · Raphael, embed a video is super easy. At teh bottom of a Youtube video there's "share", when click on it, you'll see two choices next to the URL window: "embed" and "email". Just click the "embed" and copy the longer URL. Here is the 1st movement of the concerto:

April 2, 2012 at 01:47 AM · Favorite violin they have to be playable?

Well, here are my personal favorites that always get the better of me:


Carmen Fantasy


April 19, 2012 at 12:09 AM · 1. Vivaldi's four seasons (every time I listen to this I can actually picture the seasons in my head! He did a good job of interpreting them.)

2. Mendelson E minor (I love the first and third movements.)

3. Bach (I can't decide which concerto since they are all very impressive. I like the brandenburg especially.)

4. Paganni (his caprices are brilliant and very technical)

5. Tchaikovsky ( amazing hands down)

6. Mozart ( nothing less from a prodigy)

7. Beethoven ( love his works, especially his spring sonata)

8. Grieg ( I love his morning mood)

9. Bruch ( his concerto in G minor is great)

10. Dvorak ( I love his new world syphony)

11. Bochinni ( I love the minuet)

12. Handel ( I like his sonatas)

13. Schubert ( I love his unfinished symphony)

14. Telemann (His sinfonia is cool)

15 Massanet ( I love his meditation! I should have put him more up front)

16. Pachabel (his cannon is amazing)

These are my 16 concertos!

August 14, 2012 at 03:24 AM · We love making lists such as these, it’s like picking the 10 best of anything where the deciding criteria is SIMPLY A MATTER OF TASTE. For example someone wrote once on this subject “forget sentimentality and focus on profundity” but what if one’s taste is geared towards sentimentality? Who’s to say that one trumps the other? In any case, it’s fun to do this exercise, and in a lighthearted vein my list is as follows:

1. Beethoven

2. Mendelssohn

3. Brahms

4. Bruch

5. Bach BWV 1043

6. Vieuxtemps Number 5

7. Paganini Number 1

8. Schumann

9. Tchaikovsky


The above list represents where I find MY "profundity".

January 8, 2013 at 12:36 PM · As an avid listener, a great concerto will grab me by the horns in the first 5 minutes and left me mesmerized until the last note has been played.

The fantastic 5 are:

1. Sibelius - the greatest (Ferras/Karajan, Chung, Sitkovetsky for now). Haven't heard Haendel/Ancerl and Tretyakov yet.

2. Bruch - perennial bridesmaid (Kogan & Nishizaki).

3. Paganini No.1 - started the violin virtuosity craze (Kogan & Fodor)

4. Korngold - most romantic (Heifetz).

5. Buenaventura Lakambini - reflection of Philippine music themes. Very rare (Lozada).

Completing the sweet 16:

- Chen & He Butterfly Lovers (Nishizaki)

- Mendelssohn (Grumiaux)

- Tchaikovsky (Grumiaux & Friedman)

- Saint-Saens No.2 (Ricci)

- Dvorak (Krebbers)

- Schumann (Kulenkampff)

- Conus (Koelman)

- Goldmark (Milstein)

- Brahms (Neveu)

- Rosza (Heifetz)

- Elgar (Chung)

What happened to the Beethoven? Too symphonic for my taste.

Worth mentioning - Joachim No.2 & Ginastera.

January 9, 2013 at 07:33 PM · Since I'm not a violinist maybe I hear things a bit differently, so my list is going to be different:

1. Hindemith -- no, not his "official" violin concerto, which I find rather conventional and stuffy, but the earlier concerto from the Kammermusik series, which is astonishing. I wouldn't have thought the last movement playable at the tempo taken in the recording conducted by Abbado, it has to be heard to be believed!

2. Gubaidulina -- imo, the greatest living composer. Anything by her is well worth listening to.

3. I'm not a fan of everything John Adams has written, but his violin concerto is one of his finest works, a true masterwork, very challenging to both the violinist and the listener, but well worth the effort.

4. The Schoenberg concerto was commissioned and premiered by Louis Krasner, who browbeat a student string quartet into rehearsing and performing my first effort in that medium. When the violist dropped out, he took on the viola part himself. So how can I not love the Schoenberg? :-) Aside from that, however, it truly is a staggeringly intense, demanding and rewarding work. I can't imagine how he wrote it or how any violinist manages it, but as a listener I must say it fascinates me.

5. The Sibelius. Imo Sibelius may be the greatest composer since Beethoven. That may sound strange coming from a Schoenberg fan, but that's how I feel, sorry.

6. The Brahms. No comment necessary.

7. And of course the Beethoven.

As for the rest, I must say I love them all -- except for Bruch -- too rich for my blood.

January 17, 2013 at 03:33 PM · It's difficult to properly rate this from 1-10 but the violin concertos that particular stick out to me are probably as follow:

1. Beethoven.

2. Tchaikovsky

3. Brahms

4. Sibelius

5. Shostakovich No. 1

6. Bruch

7. Mendelson

8. Dvorak

9. Paganini No. 1

10. Elgar

11. Britten

12. Prokofiev No. 2

13. Vivaldi Seasons

14. Bartok No. 2

15. Mozart No. 4

16. Stravinsky.

I harbor very little sentiment to earlier periods of music, romantic and modern violin concertos are more my thing. Vengerov IMO is one of the best interpreters of most of these, i have the majority of his recordings.

Honorable mentions certainly go out to Ligeti, Korngold, Bach, Saint-Saens, Glazunov and Shostie No. 2

Too many to really choose overall but i'm going with what i listen to most consistently, except i place brahms and beethoven highest just because their absolutely exceptional.

January 17, 2013 at 06:22 PM · Why oh why is Prokoffiev 2 played more often and rated higher as his first violin concerto. Its so amazing! Listen:

January 17, 2013 at 07:05 PM · 1. Tchaikovsky. Everyone's heard it a billion times, but it's worth it!! :)

2. Sibelius. Loooovee :)

3. Bruch :)

So I know that these are the popular, overplayed ones, but they're just so amazing!

January 17, 2013 at 07:46 PM · 1. Beethoven Op. 61

2. Tchaikovsky

3. Brahms

4. Sibelius

5. Mendelssohn

6. Mozart no. 4

February 9, 2016 at 12:59 AM · Although I think the Tchaikovsky violin concerto is a great piece, I think it is overplayed (I played it myself as well - great piece, not as challenging as Brahms). Anyways, here is my list:

1. Brahms

2. Prokofiev 1

3. Sibelius

4. Walton

5. Tchaikovsky

6. Beethoven

7. Korngold

8. Dvorak

9. Mendelssohn

10. Glazunov

February 9, 2016 at 01:42 AM · Old thread, but I just would like to reiterate the importance of the "irrelevant" and/or "obsolete" concerti which are unjustly deemed as such and rarely played on stage besides a few outlier performances here and there. The Viotti 22, Spohr 8th, Vieuxtemps 4 (5 is becoming rare as well nowadays), even the Goldmark, are but a few that come to mind. People are all too attached to the "best" violin concertos, and there's little concert venue market for so much great music (yes, I consider them musically great, or at the very least interesting, regardless the stature of Brahms/Beethoven/et al.)

The Paganinis are fun. Rarely performed, sometimes recorded. I don't think the first should be considered "the best" by default just because it's the most often recorded, likely due to the popularity of Sauret's cadenza. All of them have something special, even the "Viotti on steroids" "No. 0/6." (I realy love the very Rossinian 3rd, though all are full of that Rossini influence.)

Among the modern concerti, the Shostakovich 2nd is not that popular even though it's so amazing. Next season, at Carnegie Hall, both Prokofiev's will be performed, but it's usually the second that gets played nearly every year (often more than once). Though the first still gets some playing. The Walton is very rare as well.

Though not everybody is a fan, it's noteworthy that the great Heifetz did record some of these forgotten works, as well as championing some newer works that are now mostly forgotten. Sinding suite anyone? Conus?

Wieniawski's are also quite rare, barring competition work.

I find it sad that many of our living performers are all-too-happy to play the same great works over and over with few exceptions, though in a way, who can fault them? I don't expect them to fill a Hall playing, say, the Viotti 22nd, unduly relegated to student training work.

(This is not about new vs old, but really, our concert halls are in dire need of some variety, in my humble opinion. The repertoire is full of-as of now-"hidden" gems that are worth exposing. Relegating oneself only to "the greatest works/concerti", is really limiting one's musical experience and growth.)

Happy music making and music listening.

February 9, 2016 at 06:02 AM · I am kind of tired of listening to all these blockbuster concertos so I begin to listen to those less frequent performed ones. I still enjoy the Tchaikovsky or the Brahms or the Mozart or Beethoven etc., but I even enjoy more and more Saint Saen 3rd or Hubays 3rd or the good old Glazunov concerto. I really apppreciate the Bartok 2nd.

Have any one heard of the Chinese violin concerto "The butterfly"? a extremely melodious violin piece even Gil Shahan has recorded it with the Singapore symphony.

Well my very favorite violin concerto has to be Samuel Barber violin concerto.

February 9, 2016 at 11:06 AM · Here is my list:

1. Sibelius

2. Tchaikovsky

3. Beethoven

4. Brahms

5. Mozart 3

6. Mozart 5

7. Mendelssohn

8. Bartok 2

9. Bach Double

10. Mozart 4

11. Vieuxtemps 4

12. Korngold

13. Mozart 4

14. Bach E Major

15. Prokofiev 1

16. Barber

February 9, 2016 at 01:13 PM · I think we should hear it a bit more for Vivaldi. Of course, he doubtlessly composed some of his enormous concerto output on his way down to breakfast in the morning, but excluding those I'd suggest for the list this small selection from many equally worthy,

The Four Seasons

"Grosso Mogul" in D

"Il Favorito" in E minor

February 10, 2016 at 11:36 AM · Ever heard of Bruch No.3? Always dreamed of playing it one day, as well as of Elgar, Szymanowski No.2 and Myaskovsky op.44 ;)

Do you like it? My lifetime goal is to prove, that less known concertos can be the same beautiful as Sibelius or Tchaikovsky are.

February 10, 2016 at 02:21 PM · Well of course the Rieding Concerto is still the best.

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