The 10 Best Violin Concertos (If You Had To Make A List)

There are a lot of stunning violin concertos out there, and several lists which aim and claim to list the best 10 or 20. Violin concertos have been popular since the Baroque era (1600-1760) and they remain one of the most popular types of concerto performed in concert halls and recorded for media.

Amongst others, Bach and Vivaldi provided us with superb concertos in the Baroque era, and Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart and more continued to do so throughout the Classical period (1730-1820).

But what are the best violin concertos?

Although it is impossible to objectively devise such a list, we've considered a combination of beauty, popularity, emotional movement and memorability, in order to put one together.

Whether you're new to violin concertos and want an introduction to the highest quality music, or whether you're just checking by to see if this list adheres to your own opinions, we hope that you enjoy the magnificent sounds in the following 10 pieces of music!

1) Mozart - Violin Concerto No. 3

Music Maestro Mozart's Concerto No. 3 – composed in 1755 – is the most popular of his 5 violin concertos. And with good reason!

It consists of an allegro movement, an adagio movement and a rondeau. The adagio movement is where we hear the main theme in this piece, and the rondeau has an enormous melodic range and a grippingly slow ending which leaves the listener simultaneously satisfied and wanting more.

Let's have a listen to this concerto...

2) Beethoven - Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major

As is the norm in violin concertos, Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major – composed in 1806 – consists of 3 movements.

An allegro movement is followed by a larghetto movement and then the third and final part is a rondeau.

And this piece certainly moves. The ferocious ending to the allegro section makes the steady larghetto movement most welcome, before the exciting and interesting ending brings joy to the listener.

Let's have a listen to this concerto...

3) Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major

Tchaikovsky's violin concerto – composed in 1878 – is one of his most famous pieces.

There are three movements following a classic structure of: fast – slow – fast. This is a recipe for aural enjoyment. However, in the early days of this concerto's existence, not everybody seemed to think so!

At its premiere, people booed more than they clapped, and some critics at the time even described it as “awful”!

However, this concerto eventually became popular and is now one of the most loved Tchaikovsky pieces.

Let's have a listen to this concerto...

4) Bach – Concerto for 2 Violins

This is perhaps one of the most famous works by Bach, and was written between 1717 and 1723.

It opens with a vivace movement, which leads into a largo movement before ending with an exciting allegro section.

It's considered to be one of the best works of the late Baroque period, and the relationship between the two violins is expressive and stylish.

Let's have a listen to this concerto...

5) Vivaldi – Four Seasons

This group of four violin concertos is probably the most famous within this list.

Each section gives musical expression to a different season, and within them Vivaldi creates sounds to represent natural sounds from birds to dogs to drunken dancers.

All of Vivaldi's representations of seasons are masterpieces, and irresistible to listen to.

Let's have a listen to this concerto...

6) Brahms – Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major

This was Brahms' only violin concerto, although it was originally intended as a piano concerto. However, it seems that Brahms let his creativity take control and this wonderful violin concerto was the result.

There are three movements, and each of them are demanding for the player and easy on the ear.

This is a euphoric set of movements.

Let's have a listen to this concerto...

7) Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto in E Minor

Mendelssohn's Concerto in E Minor was amazingly written when he was just 13 years old!

This is the perfect introduction to violin concertos; it consists of 3 movements (surprise surprise), and each of them feels more emotionally charged than the last.

It's commonly heard at weddings, and truly is the sound of love.

Let's have a listen to this concerto...

8) Sibelius – Violin Concerto in D Minor

This is Sibelius' only concerto, and though it has divided critics since it was written in 1904, it is still popular and many keen soloists strive to make it more so.

It has an allegro movement, followed by an adagio movement and ends with an allegro movement, and the structure takes the listener on a pleasant journey.

It starts gently, has a lyrical middle section, and ends with a warlike section which is well known amongst violinists for its extreme technical difficulty!

Let's have a listen to this concerto...

9) Bruch – Violin Concerto No. 1

This popular concerto – completed in 1866 – is made of an allegro moderato vorspiel, an adagio middle section and an allegro energico finale.

The first section is directly linked to the second part, and works as a prelude to it. This is unusual in a concerto, but works exceptionally well.

It starts slowly and the opening movement hints at the beautiful melodies to come in the middle.

The middle section subsides to a more intense, accelerando ending which has a climactic ending and doesn't disappoint the listener.

Let's have a listen to this concerto...

10) Wieniawski – Violin Concerto No. 2

Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No. 2 begins and ends allegro moderato, and has an adante second movement.

It is 23 minutes of romantic music which begins sombrely, has a melodic central climax and leads to a gypsy-style rondeau.

This is a rich piece, filled with moving melodies and touching harmonies.

Let's have a listen to this concerto...

All of these beautiful concertos are moving and pleasurable to listen to; they encourage us to relax and to enjoy a rich life.

Not only this, but these concertos inspire violinists to fall more deeply in love with their instrument, encourage them to progress and inspire composers to compose.

Are you a violinist, composer or musician? Do you agree with our list?

We'd love to hear what you think in the comments below!

Roz is a music teacher and our go-to person for anything music theory! When she’s not teaching or writing for Zing, Roz writes and plays in alternative/ psyche /art rock band The Roz Bruce Infusion.

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