Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, is his last large orchestral work. It forms an important part of the violin repertoire and is one of the most popular and most frequently performed violin concertos in history. A typical performance lasts just under half an hour.
On 30 July 1838, Felix Mendelssohn wrote to his childhood friend violinist Ferdinand David, the then concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.: "I should like to write a violin concerto for you next winter. One in E minor runs through my head, the beginning of which gives me no peace." But it took him more than six years to finish the concerto until its premiere in 1845.
During this time, Mendelssohn maintained a regular correspondence with David, who gave him many technical and compositional advices. Indeed, this violin concerto was the first of many to have been composed with the input of a professional violinist, and would influence many future collaborations.
The work itself was one of the foremost violin concertos of the Romantic era and was influential on many other composers.
The concerto consists of three movements with the following tempo markings:
Allegro molto appassionato (E minor)
Andante (C major)
Allegretto non troppo – Allegro molto vivace (E major)
Although the concerto consists of three movements in a standard fast–slow–fast structure and each movement follows a traditional form, the concerto was innovative and included many novel features for its time. Distinctive aspects include the almost immediate entrance of the violin at the beginning of the work (rather than following an orchestral preview of the first movement's major themes, as was typical in Classical-era concertos) and the through-composed form of the concerto as a whole, in which the three movements are melodically and harmonically connected and played attacca (each movement immediately following the previous one without any pauses).
The autographed score is dated 16 September 1844, but Mendelssohn was still seeking advice from David until its premiere. The concerto was first performed in Leipzig on 13 March 1845 with Ferdinand David as soloist. Mendelssohn was unable to conduct due to illness and the premiere was conducted by the Danish composer Niels Gade. Mendelssohn first conducted the concerto on 23 October 1845 again with Ferdinand David as soloist.
The concerto was well received and soon became regarded as one of the greatest violin concertos of all time. The concerto remains popular to this day and has developed a reputation as an essential concerto for all aspiring concert violinists to master, and usually one of the first Romantic era concertos they learn. Many professional violinists have recorded the concerto and the work is regularly performed in concerts and classical music competitions.