Famous composers who didn't write violin concertos

Edited: March 29, 2018, 10:42 AM · Who are some composers that didn't write a violin concerto but you wish they had? One name that comes to my mind is George Gershwin.

Replies (52)

March 29, 2018, 8:58 AM · Arvo Part and Aaron Copeland. I wish Barber and Beethoven had wrote a second violin concerto.
March 29, 2018, 8:59 AM · Mahler, Grieg, Borodin. But especially Mahler.
March 29, 2018, 9:08 AM · Brahms, Beethoven. Maybe Tchaikovsky?
March 29, 2018, 9:25 AM · Wait, what?
March 29, 2018, 9:56 AM · Fritz Kreisler and John Williams
March 29, 2018, 10:06 AM · Brahms, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky all wrote violin concertos. Chopin is one good example.
March 29, 2018, 10:24 AM · Do you think a Chopin violin concerto would be dark sounding?
March 29, 2018, 10:28 AM · Conlon Nancarrow.
Particularly if he wrote a piece for self-playing violin.
March 29, 2018, 10:36 AM · Sorry, I was being silly. Ravel is one of my favorites who didn't write a violin concerto. I second the desire to hear a Mahler concerto. Or, wait, Mozart! (I kid.)
March 29, 2018, 10:39 AM · Both Kreisler and Williams wrote violin concertos. Kreisler wrote two, both intentionally in the styles of other composers: one in the style of Paganini and the other in the style of Vivaldi. John Williams wrote his early in his career, before he became well known for his film scores, and the style is much more modernist than one typically expects from him.
March 29, 2018, 10:58 AM · I assume a Chopin concerto would have been very romantic and wistful sounding - perhaps in the key of F minor. Did Lizst write a concerto?
March 29, 2018, 11:29 AM · Erick Friedman told me that Gershwin was in the process of writing writing a violin concerto dedicated to Jascha Heifetz but he passed away before completing it. Wagner was another major composer who did not write a violin concerto.
March 29, 2018, 11:58 AM · Supposedly, when asked why he'd never written one, Ravel explained that Mendelssohn had already done it.
March 29, 2018, 12:03 PM · How about if Ravel had turned Bolero into a VC instead of an oboe concerto? Like or dislike?
March 29, 2018, 12:06 PM · Rachmaninoff
March 29, 2018, 12:14 PM · Bolero? Hard to like unless you're auditioning a conductor.
March 29, 2018, 4:35 PM · Did any of "the five" write one? Borodin, Balakirev, Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov, or Moussorgsky? How about Berlioz?

Quite a few who wrote amazing sonatas but no concerto -- Franck, Debussy, Handel.

March 29, 2018, 7:38 PM · Andrew - I believe Kreisler's Paganini concerto was an arrangement, not a composition. His Vivaldi concerto is lovely, but it would be nice to have a concerto by Kreisler in the style of Kreisler.

Aside from that, I'd say some composers who did write violin concertos did not do their best work in this genre (cough cough Dvorak), and one could wish for something greater there.

March 29, 2018, 9:29 PM · Alright, I am going to pick the lowest hanging fruit here...

Palestrina, Byrd, Ockeghem, Machaut, Gesualdo, etc., etc...

March 30, 2018, 3:31 AM · I happen to love the Dvorak violin concerto although they seldom play it on our classical radio station. There are so many lesser known concertos out there who rarely get played such as Samuel Coleridge Taylor's, and instead it seems they chooose to play the same limited 8 to ten pieces to death. I can certainly understand the local orchestras and soloists being forced to choose the top well known concertos in order to fill the concert hall but I do wish the radio stations would give us a bit more variety.
March 30, 2018, 5:05 AM · Grieg, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Berlioz, Ravel, Debussy, and Gershwin.
March 30, 2018, 8:41 AM · Palestrina?
Edited: March 30, 2018, 1:37 PM · Heinrich Biber. He composed outstanding violin music (the “Rosary" sonatas, for example) but no concertos, presumably because he was a little too early for the concerto genre as we know it.

I suppose we should be grateful that Mahler never composed a violin concerto - 90 minutes long!

March 30, 2018, 9:56 AM · Schubert, Bruckner, Boulez, Webern(opposite of Mahler - short), Verdi, Smetana, Suk (came close with the Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra), Rimsky, Borodin, Sarasate.
I was going to suggest Carter, but according to Google there is one - I've never heard (of) it.
March 30, 2018, 5:42 PM · Sarasate should had wrote a concerto. Lalo did it for him. Also Seurat. I
image his concerto would be impossible to play.
March 30, 2018, 8:32 PM · Rimsky has the concert fantasy. I'd say it counts as a concerto.
March 30, 2018, 8:40 PM · I'm glad Sarasate didn't write a concerto.
March 31, 2018, 4:04 AM · I remember hearing a violin concerto by Schubert on the radio and it sounded interesting to me.
March 31, 2018, 11:53 AM · The closest Richard Wagner seems to have come to composing a violin concerto (and that was very probably not at all close) was a piece called "Dreams" that he arranged for violin and orchestra, WWV 91b. The best of luck to anyone trying to track down the sheet music!
March 31, 2018, 12:16 PM · Has anyone mentioned Richard Strauss(of Ein Heldenleben/Don Juan fame)? He certainly knew what the violin can do. I am not aware of any VC by him.
March 31, 2018, 1:06 PM · Schmidt! And I definitely would love to have a dozen more Violin Concerts from Korngold...
March 31, 2018, 1:24 PM · Richard Strauss did write a violin concerto.
April 1, 2018, 12:29 PM · Actually Mahler did write a violin concerto. It's recorded by Vengerov and Boulez, but it's a hard to find record.


An oldie but a goodie.

April 1, 2018, 1:14 PM · That is actually a fake.
Edited: April 1, 2018, 3:37 PM · The Mahler VC isn't on the Naxos and IMSLP databases (my usual first ports of call when doing a search).

This is explained at the end of Dorian's link.

Nice one, Dorian!

April 1, 2018, 5:46 PM · Yeah, the Kriesler Concero ala Paganini is definitely an arrangement, of Paganini's Concerto #1, 1st movement. I got really excited there for a minute, thinking there existed out there a Kriesler Concerto in the Style of Paganini. I love his "In the Style Of" pieces, many of which are either better or more violinistic than the originals, and I would _love_ to see what he did imitating the style of Paganini, but he mostly imitated earlier composers. As far as I know. Kreisler didn't actually write anything "In the Style" of Paganini, though a bunch of stuff on the internet cites Preludium and Allegra as In the Style of Paganini, they mean Pugnami.
Edited: April 2, 2018, 12:29 PM · Perhaps we're ready to have a new discussion on non-famous, or otherwise obscure, composers who did write violin concertos? I think a couple of guidelines would be in order to keep some sort of control: a score must be publicly accessible (e.g. in IMSLP), and no known recordings.
April 2, 2018, 2:56 PM · "No known recordings" is a really tough one, because many extremely obscure pieces have at least one recording. Having no major-label recordings is a better standard.

Similarly, I don't like the idea of requiring that scores be publicly accessible, because that rules out every concerto composed after the 1920s.

The guideline I'd propose is that the concerto must have no major-label recordings and no more than three known recordings in total, and EITHER

1) have a publicly available score,
2) have at least one commercial recording.

April 2, 2018, 3:07 PM · I do a weekly "Forgotten Masterpiece Friday" post on my Facebook page, and the "no known recordings" standard would rule out 100% of the violin concertos that I've posted.

My most recent post was the Guirne Creith violin concerto, which was only recorded once, in 2009. The score and parts were misplaced shortly after the first performance in 1936, and rediscovered only in 2007 during a liquidation sale at a piano store. It should by all rights be a major post-Romantic concerto. The composer is obscure, but... look it up! To me the concerto seems to show influences of Richard Strauss, Elgar, and Delius.

April 2, 2018, 7:44 PM · Back to Kreisler ... I said earlier it would be nice to have a concerto by Kreisler "in the style of Kreisler". We don't have that, but he did write something called Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta, which is sort of close.
April 4, 2018, 5:00 PM · I second Sarasate. It would probably be close to impossible, but it would sound amazing.
April 5, 2018, 3:49 PM · Can anyone confirm this is an actual Ysaye concerto?
April 12, 2018, 7:43 PM · Boccherini
Edited: April 24, 2018, 4:10 PM · Jeff: Barber and Beethoven between them?
Farnaby, Gibbons, Frescobaldi, Purcell, Rossini, Glinka, Johann Strauss, Holst, Poulenc, Messiaen.
April 24, 2018, 4:22 PM · Gabriel, from what I have read, this is probably truer of Schumann than of Dvorak. I've heard Schumann's cello concerto, it's not that bad, but I gather that Schumann's violin concerto really does come from his period of incapability.
April 24, 2018, 6:01 PM · Debussy, Fauré (wish he'd completed the one he started), Franck, Grieg come to mind
April 25, 2018, 4:26 AM · I for one love the Schumann violin concerto. In the 2012 edition of the Queen Elisabeth Competition, the first movement was even a compulsory part of the first round (with piano). I recently heard it live with orchestra, performed by Patricia Kopatchinskaja. Quite an evening!
April 25, 2018, 7:43 PM · John, I hadn't heard the Schumann but I just listened to Menuhin on youtube and it was interesting. Dvorak is too, but I prefer the cello concerto, and I am strongly inclined to prefer a work for violin! The Dvorak violin concerto is doubly lacking to me, 1) because it doesn't rank with other Romantic concertos, 2) because Dvorak wrote some pretty much perfect music, so it would be nice to have a great(er) violin concerto. Of course he was a violist so who knows why he only wrote concertos for violin and cello.
April 28, 2018, 2:51 AM · Dvorak also wrote a piano concerto, although it is rarely performed.
April 28, 2018, 4:10 AM · "Quite a few who wrote amazing sonatas but no concerto -- Franck, Debussy, Handel."

I'd agree with you about Handel, but he disguised one by calling it "Sonata a 5" - HWV 288 in B Flat. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_compositions_by_George_Frideric_Handel#Concertos

Well worth hearing IMO.

April 28, 2018, 1:30 PM · The score (not parts) of the Handel concerto is on IMSLP at

A brief search on Naxos found these two constrasted recordings (I have little doubt there are others):

Harmonia Mundi HMU907415DI: Academy of Ancient Music, dir. Richard Egarr

Decca 00028942608221: Kenneth Sillitoe with English Chamber Orchestra dir. Raymond Leppard

My personal preference is for the AAM recording.

April 28, 2018, 5:58 PM · Thanks Trevor. There's also a performance by Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert (soloist unclear, maybe Simon Standage), which appears in a recording titled 'Handel: Complete Orchestral Recordings'.

I like the dynamic energy of the Allegro done by the English Chamber Orchestra, but the version in my head has more.

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