Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto grew out of a long and deep friendship between him and Ferdinand David, a violinist he had known since his teens. David had repeatedly asked Mendelssohn for a concert, but this was repeatedly postponed due to the composer’s numerous engagements in Leipzig, Berlin, and London.
Finally, in July 1838, Mendelssohn wrote to David: ‘I would like to write you a violin concerto for next winter. One in E minor is spinning in my head, the beginning of which does not give me peace.’ David was Mendelssohn’s concertmaster in the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and they shared a deep spiritual and artistic bond, which the composer expressed in the same letter: ‘…May heaven allow us [ ] to hold fast all that is loved and sacred in art, so that it does not die’.
However, the concert would not see the light of day until almost seven years later. Meanwhile, Mendelssohn was working. When he showed David a partially completed score, the violinist exclaimed, ‘This is going to be great,’ and he wasn’t wrong.