On an imaginary map of the music of German Romanticism, Max Bruch (1838–1920) would be positioned somewhere close to the stylistic movement pioneered by Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms. Although he composed numerous works, including operas, oratorios, symphonies and chamber music, only a single composition of his – the Violin Concerto No. 1 – is really considered to be a repertoire piece in today’s concert world.
Composed in Koblenz, the Violin Concerto in G minor constitutes the third pinnacle of the German Romantic literature for violin alongside the works in the same genre by Brahms and Mendelssohn. The first version was completed in 1866 and premièred with the composer conducting. Bruch revisited the work the following year in collaboration with the violinist Joseph Joachim, who became the first to perform the new version in January 1868. Although the composer would later go on to compose two more violin concertos, the Violin Concerto No. 1 became so popular even during his lifetime that he sarcastically called for it to be banned in 1893.