Best Student Violin Concertos of All Time

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The best violin concertos of all time including all different types of violin music and famous violin concertos songs that everyone knows and loves.

The violin is one of the most popular instruments in the classical music canon, and thousands of composers have tried their hand at writing concertos for the instrument. The enormity of the genre can be overwhelming, so I hope that this guide will help you start your listening journey!

As a professional violinist and violist and teacher, I have performed, listened to, and taught hundreds of violin concertos. Naturally, I’ve developed favorites, and it should be noted that an article claiming to definitively list the “10 greatest concertos of all time” cannot help but be subjective.

Below, you’ll find a list of my favorite concertos or those that I view as critical in the history of violin music and classical music history as a whole. I’ve also included my favorite recordings of each, and I hope you’ll give them a listen!

What Makes a Great Violin Concerto?

Violin concertos are as diverse as classical music itself, and there are many different aspects that can make a piece great. Because of the wide range of the violin and the emotional capacity of the instrument, violins are particularly suited for concertos because of their ability to cut through the density of the orchestral sound. The most effective concertos utilize the emotive capacity of the instrument and tell a story.

Time Periods of Violin Concertos

Composers have been writing violin concertos for all of modern classical music history, so there are examples from every significant era of classical music. Here are the five main time periods:

Baroque Period

The Baroque period spans from roughly 1600 to 1750 and marks the start of modern classical music history. Prominent composers from this period include Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel, Georg Philipp Telemann, Giuseppe Tartini, and Claudio Monteverdi.

Classical Period

Following the Baroque period, the Classical period marks a shift in classical music history and sets the foundation for all compositions that follow. The period spans from about 1730 to 1820, and significant composers include Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Muzio Clementi, and Leopold Mozart.

Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert are considered to be transitional figures between the Classical period and the Romantic.

Romantic Era

Closely related to Romanticism, the intellectual, artistic, and literary movement that dominated the 19th century, the Romantic era in classical music is characterized by lush and expansive compositions that rebelled against the strict confines of the Classical and Baroque periods.

The period spans from roughly 1800 to 1910, and prominent composers include Ludwig van Beethoven, Hector Berlioz, Frederic Chopin, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, Antonin Dvorak, Jean Sibelius, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and many others.

20th Century

The 20th century marked a significant expansion of the diversity of music, and genres and compositional techniques exploded and fractured. In classical music, the period was marked by experimentation and rejection of traditional norms.

Prominent composers include Richard Strauss, Edward Elgar, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, Terry Riley, John Cage, Phillip Glass, and many others.

21st Century

As classical music has receded in the popular psyche, composers have adapted and found creative solutions, including many genre crossovers and technological improvements. Prominent composers include Kaija Saariaho, Jennifer Higdon, Eric Whitacre, Nico Muhly, and Caroline Shaw.

Top Student Violin Concertos

We have selected the best violin concertos based on their significance for the classical canon, their compositional quality and the most important concerts for students.

Concerts help beginners to turn into mid-level players and open their instrument to emotions, new sounds and new techniques. Some concerts are definitely better suited for beginners than others. Regardless of whether you are an adult or a child, performing these concerts for beginners will make you fall in love with the classical violin. However, I must warn you that these amazing violin concertos for beginners have a habit of leading novice violinists into the realm of average musical skill!

* We know that in the name of some of them there is a “concertino”, not a “concert”, but by definition a concertino is a simple or short concert.

1. Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61, Ludwig van Beethoven

  • Musical era: Classical/Romantic periods
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Year: 1806
  • Favorite recording:Itzhak Perlman with Daniel Barenboim and Berliner Philharmoniker, 1992

Unlike much of his other work, Beethoven’s violin concerto was given little attention when it was first composed. In 1844, this all changed when the 12-year-old violinist Joseph Joachim gave a revival performance with the London Philharmonic Society orchestra, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn.

Since this revival, Beethoven’s concerto has become one of the most famous violin concertos in classical music history. It bridges the gap between the Classical and Romantic periods and was heavily influenced by the French style of composition from the time period. It’s notoriously difficult and requires incredible skill and mastery.

2. Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77, Johannes Brahms

  • Musical era: Romantic period
  • Composer: Johannes Brahms
  • Year: 1878
  • Favorite recording: Janine Jansen with Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by Bernard Haitink, 2013

Brahms continued in the tradition of Beethoven’s German violin concerto, writing a piece in the same key and dedicating the piece to the very same Joseph Joachim who gave the revival performance of Beethoven’s concerto. On the premier of Brahms’ concerto, in fact, Joachim insisted on beginning with Beethoven’s concerto and ending with the new work.

The concerto holds a position of reverence in the violin repertoire canon and is widely loved. It’s virtuosic, expressive, and incredibly beautiful. It’s the pinnacle of the genre. Beyond its position in classical music, the concerto also appears in the 2007 film There Will Be Blood and is sampled extensively in the 2004 Alicia Keys song “Karma.”

3. Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219

  • Musical era: Classical period
  • Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Year: 1775
  • Favorite recording: Isabelle Faust and the musicians of Il Giardino Armonico conducted by Giovanni Antonini, 2016

Mozart’s violin concertos are a quintessential example of Classical era concertos and follow a relatively uniform fast-slow-fast, three-movement structure. These concertos, and particularly the 5th, are popular with students and professionals alike and require precise control of the instrument.

This piece is particularly important for students to know and eventually learn to play.

4. Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV 1043, Johann Sebastian Bach

  • Musical era: Baroque period
  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Year: 1730
  • Favorite recording: Isaac Stern and Itzhak Perlman with Zubin Mehta, 1980

Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins, colloquially known as the “Bach Double,” is one of Bach’s most popular works. It’s part of almost every violin student’s repertoire. While it’s technically far easier than works like Beethoven’s or Brahms’s concertos, the work is sophisticated and entertaining.

This is a long-time favorite for student concerto competitions, and it’s well worth your time to familiarize yourself with this piece.

5. Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

  • Musical era: Romantic period
  • Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  • Year: 1878
  • Favorite recording: Julia Fischer with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, with conductor Vasily Petrenko, 2013

Russian composer Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto is one of the most popular violin concertos of all time. Although it was written in the same year as the Brahms concerto and in the same key (D major), this piece is quite different.

It was the only violin concerto written by Tchaikovsky, and it’s emblematic of the composer’s Romantic period compositional style. It’s a favorite of students and professionals alike.

6. Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117, Bela Bartok

  • Musical era: 20th century
  • Composer: Bela Bartok
  • Year: 1937-38
  • Favorite recording: Augustin Hadelich, with conductor Vasily Petrenko and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, 2017

Bela Bartok wrote two violin concertos over the course of his career, but only his second gained any recognition. The second concerto, written between 1937 and 1938 and premiered in 1939, was written in a difficult period of Bartok’s life, amidst growing concern for the rise of fascism in Europe.

The concerto is an essential work of 20th century music. It leans heavily on emerging compositional techniques, including 12-tone writing (a departure from the traditional tonal structure of the Classical and Romantic periods) and an expansion of the traditional concerto form.

7. Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47, Jean Sibelius

  • Musical era: Romantic period/20th century
  • Composer: Jean Sibelius
  • Year: 1904
  • Favoriterecording: Sarah Chang with conductor Jaap van Zweden and the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, 2011

Finnish composer Jean Sibelius’s violin concerto is largely considered to be his greatest work. Credited with helping to establish a Finnish national identity, Sibelius was a prolific composer of symphonic works and chamber music, and his violin concerto masterfully combines techniques from both.

Sweeping, emotional, and achingly beautiful, the violin concerto is an essential work in the violin canon and a favorite of professional soloists and students.

8. Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64, Felix Mendelssohn

  • Musical era: Romantic period
  • Composer: Felix Mendelssohn
  • Year: 1844
  • Favorite recording: Janine Jansen with conductor Riccardo Chailly and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, 2011

Mendelssohn’s violin concerto is one of the most popular concertos in history. The third of the most significant German concertos, along with Beethoven’s and Brahms’s works, Mendelssohn’s concerto is magical, lyrical, and thoroughly enjoyable.

This work is a popular choice for a student’s first “real” concerto, although it’s still performed by professionals frequently.

9. Violin Concerto in D, Wynton Marsalis

  • Musical era: 21st century
  • Composer: Wynton Marsalis
  • Year: 2019
  • Favorite recording: Nicola Benedetti with conductor Cristian Macelaru and the Philadelphia Orchestra, 2019

Wynton Marsalis, the legendary jazz trumpeter, is best known for his extensive contributions to the world of jazz, but he’s begun to dip his feet into the world of classical music composition. Written for his friend and world-famous violinist Nicola Benedetti, the violin concerto is a masterful work.

The piece is based on organic connections between classical symphonic writing and jazz, African American poets and musicians, Scottish poets, and collaboration with Benedetti herself.

10. Violin Concerto, Jennifer Higdon

  • Musical era: 21st century
  • Composer: Jennifer Higdon
  • Year: 2008
  • Favorite recording: Hilary Hahn and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, 2010

Jennifer Higdon is a giant in 21st century composition, and her violin concerto is largely considered the most significant 21st century violin concerto so far. The concerto was written for Hilary Hahn and premiered by Hahn and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra with the conductor Mario Venzano on February 6, 2009.

Higdon’s concerto follows a traditional three movement structure and uses each movement to showcase different aspects of the violin’s capabilities. It was positively received by critics and audiences, and in 2010 it was the prize-winning composition for the Pulitzer Prize for Music.

11. Violin Indian Concertino by George Perlman

Trying to figure out which concerto to start with? Begin with Indian Concertino. It is one of the very best violin concertos for beginners. This song is a beautiful and exciting piece. The rhythm is pretty straight forward, with a couple of recurring patterns throughout which makes it nice. For the most part the rhythm is quarter notes and eighth notes, but you do have some dotted quarter and half notes.

There are some fun sixteenth notes and triplets but they are not anything to stress about as they stay on the same note while you bow the rhythm. There are three movements. As is typically the case with concerto’s, the first movement is medium in speed and difficulty. The second movement is slow, beautiful and a little easier. The final movement is exciting, slightly harder and faster.

The piano accompaniment, while not difficult, adds to the piece tremendously, and provides much of the ‘background Indian drums’ throughout. I remember playing this as a child and loving it. Now my daughter is playing from my old copy. When I told her it was my old copy she said, “So, this song is ancient?” While not ancient, this song is definitely an ‘oldie but a goodie.’

12. Violin Concerto Op. 35 B Minor by Oskar Rieding

Both my girls are learning the first movement in preparation for soloing with our local orchestra. This concerto does have an orchestra score which makes it really fun if that is a resource you have available to you.

This one is in a minor key, and has a very beautiful sound because of it. It also has some accidentals (1st and 3rd fingers) but nothing my daughter who just learned Indian Concertino couldn’t handle.

The first movement and second movement are easier and gorgeous. The third movement jumps up a level in difficulty. The third movement ends in fast sixteenth notes!

Itzhak Perlman made a recording in 1999 titled “Concertos From My Childhood.” One of which is the Rieding Op. 35. It’s brilliant! Itzhak said that he learned this song well before the age of 8.

13. Violin Concerto in G. Op. 11 by Ferdinand Kuchler

This is my son’s favorite concerto out of the bunch, and I can see why. If you are wanting a classical and professional sounding yet VERY easy concerto this one is for you. The rhythm (until the 3rd movement) is mostly 8th, quarter, and half notes. There are a couple of runs and accidentals that might be tricky, but also outrageously fulfilling to master. My favorite is the 2nd movement. For some reason it reminds of Ave Maria; it’s got a gorgeous melody.

I REALLY like Kuchler’s work. He was a great violinist and dedicated much of his time to the pedagogy and teaching of violin. So, he truly understands what beginner violinists know and are capable of, and has written this piece specifically with them in mind. When your student has advanced to third position also check out his Op. 12 and Op. 15 (in the style of Vivaldi). It’s another fantastic Kuchler piece.

14. Violin Concerto Op. 13 Leo Portnoff

Ready to step it up a level? This concerto is on the back end of beginner as it has quite a few flat accidentals, meter changes, some basic double stops, and chords. But it is well worth working up to!

I feel like the first and third movement are mini concertos within a concerto. Particularly the first movement begins very melodic, slows down in the middle then has a very fun and showy ending.

I first fell in love with Portnoff when my older daughter learned his Russian Fantasia work (more advanced). The Russian Fantasia is a marvelous composition!! It was that piece that led me to this concerto. Born in Ukraine in 1875, I feel like Portnoff is an underappreciated and underplayed composer for beginning to intermediate violinists. I’m here to raise Portnoff awareness! Let’s fill the concert halls and classrooms with more of it!

15. Student Concertino No. 4 Op. 8 by Adolf Huber

Last but not least is another ‘ancient’ concertino I played in my childhood. Written in the romantic period (three cheers for romantic style), this mini concerto is one movement with 3 sections.

There is a decent sized section of 16th note runs up and down in the first section. Fortunately it is in a simple key with accidental c sharps also coming to the rescue.

The middle section can prove challenging because of the flats in the key signature. Huber truly is testing beginner violinists with his added sharp accidentals. The left hand is frequently stretched a step and a half between a low flat first finger and a high sharp second finger.

I have to say that the last page is one of the first times I can I remember experiencing the “violinist high.” The double stops utilize mostly open strings so they aren’t terrible hard to play but will wow any audience. In addition to the double stops, Huber has pulled out all the stops with his rushing 16th note interludes. He has created an overall effect that leaves one believing the violinist has shifted to higher notes in third position even though it stays in first position the entire time.

Best Violin Concertos Composers

Many composers have tried their hand at the violin concerto, to varying results. As a professional musician and teacher, I consider these three composers to be the pinnacle of this genre.

Johannes Brahms

Brahms’s violin concerto is unparalleled in its scope and artistry. I cannot remember a time hearing this piece when I wasn’t incredibly moved, and no work can compare to its depth of character and expression.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven’s violin concerto established the genre in the long term and cemented the violin as a prominent and essential instrument in classical music composition. Straddling the Classical and Romantic periods, Beethoven is a pivotal composer in the history of classical music, and his violin concerto is a significant contribution to music history.

Jean Sibelius

The Sibelius violin concerto is the third “must play” concerto in the violin repertoire. It’s a truly exceptional piece of art. While Sibelius is less well known than other classical composers, his violin concerto has risen to the top of the genre for good reason. This is a concerto that every violinist should know and study.

Conclusion

The Violin Concerto has been a pillar of classical music for centuries, and almost every outstanding composer in the history of classical music has tried his hand at writing it. Thanks to its acoustic and expressive capabilities, the violin is uniquely suited for the concert format, and the best composers are able to use all the strengths and characteristics of the instrument to create a work that will soar skyward.

While most violin concertos follow the traditional three-part structure, composers throughout the history of classical music have adapted and pushed the boundaries of the genre to express their own unique compositional features and styles. This list is an initial guide to the genre. Perhaps they will serve as a starting point for your listening.

FAQ for Top Student Violin Concertos

What is a student violin concerto?

A student violin concerto is a form of classical music that has been around for centuries. They are often composed as a solo piece, but they can also be written for an orchestra.

You can also call it an arrangement. It is usually composed in the style of the concerto form, which is one of the most common forms in classical music.

The most popular violin concerto is the “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Are there any differences between violin and viola concertos?

Violin and viola concertos are similar in many ways but have some differences. The most significant difference is that the viola concerto has a greater number of movements.

The most popular violin concertos are those that have been performed more often than others. This is because they are typically composed in the classical era of music and were designed to be performed by professional musicians.

What makes a good violin concerto?

It is difficult to answer this question because it is subjective. There are many factors that contribute to the success of a violin concerto, such as the composition and the instrumentation.

How long do student violin concerto last?

The duration of a violin concerto can vary from about five to twenty minutes. It is usually performed by a soloist and an orchestra or band.

How did student violin concerto become so popular?

The violin concerto that was composed by a young Hungarian composer, Franz Joseph Haydn, is one of the most popular classical pieces of all time. It has been performed and recorded by many artists and has been adapted in various genres such as opera and film.

It is not known how this piece became so popular but it is believed that the popularity of this piece came from its ability to capture different emotions.

Is there a difference between classical and popular violin concertos?

The difference between the two types of violin concertos lies in the tempo and sound. Classical violin concertos are slower, have a more mellow sound, and are often played on period instruments. Popular violin concertos have a faster tempo and are played on modern violins with a more vibrant sound.

In general, classical pieces are characterized by their slower tempos, which create a more relaxed atmosphere for listeners. Popular pieces can be faster-paced and may require more energy from the performer to keep up with the music being performed.

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