Violin Concerto

Original version

2B1.mp3 = 1st movement: Allegro moderato (excerpt),  | 2B2.mp3 = 1st movement: Allegro moderato (excerpt) | 2B3.mp3 = 2nd movement: Adagio di molto (excerpt)
Leonidas Kavakos, violin; Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Osmo Vänskä, cond.

The idea of composing a violin concerto is mentioned in Sibelius's letters as early as the beginning of the 1890s, but it was not until the beginning of the new century that he seems to have started to compose it in earnest.

The first specific mention that Sibelius makes of the concerto is found in a letter to Aino on 18th September 1902. Even though numerous sketches for the Violin Concerto have survived, they do not allow us to form any detailed overview of the work’s compositional history. In the sketches we find themes that Sibelius transferred to other works that he was working on at the time, such as the Second Symphony, and into later works such as Pohjola's Daughter.

The Violin Concerto took overall shape during the summer and autumn of 1903. First of all Sibelius made a version for violin and piano, so the soloist would have the chance to rehearse it together with a pianist. Only after that was the orchestral score finished, apparently in January 1904, although Sibelius continued to make adjustments until the last moment. After a couple of performances had received a rather mixed reception, Sibelius withdrew his Violin Concerto, reworking it in early 1905. In the first movement, especially, the revisions were extensive.

The revised version of the concerto was premièred on 19th October 1905 in Berlin. Sibelius himself was not present; the performance was given by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Richard Strauss. The soloist was Karl (Karel) Halíř.

On this occasion, too, the reception was lukewarm, even negative, and during the next twenty years only a few violinists took an interest in Sibelius’s Violin Concerto. The concerto’s march to victory began when Jascha Heifetz made his now legendary recording of the work in 1935.