Violin concerto in D minor, op. 47

The Violin Concerto by Jean Sibelius (1865–1957) is one of the most popular works in music history. Violinists are particularly fond of it because in spite of the technical challenge it poses, every passage and virtuoso element is rewarding and ‘kind on the hand’ of the player, revealing their profound relationship with their instrument. That is no accident, since Sibelius himself had wanted to become a violinist and even in the 1880s he chiefly considered himself a violinist. It is as if he composed all of his love for the instrument and all of his virtuoso dreams into his only concerto. Although throughout the work the focus is almost entirely on the soloist, the shaping and development of the movements is symphonic in character and long solo passages occasionally alternate with important tutti ‘eruptions’. The sonority of the work is at the same time characterised by a special intimacy and chamber music. The orchestral instruments, in particular the woodwinds, often play in pair or small groups and assume an important role in creating musical gestures and colours, as well in directing the musical process. In the opening movement the soloist’s great cadenza, in irregular fashion, assumes the function of the middle development section of the sonata form. The B-flat-major Adagio’s sentimentality-free lyricism has been compared by one critic to the ‘Romance’ movements of Mozart’s violin concertos. The triple-time D-major finale is a rustic dance scene. The strings’ relentless drumming lends excitement to the main theme.