Top 10 20th-century violin concertos

Julian Halse Fri 9th January 2015

Our pick of the finest violin concertos written in the 20th century and in modern musical language

The violin concerto continued to inspire composers to produce some of their finest orchestral works throughout the 20th century. We've been a little flexible here – superb concertos written in the 20th century but in an obviously late-Romantic idiom, such as those by Elgar, Barber or Korngold, will appear in a further list of 'Romantic' concertos, while this list includes those very much created in a modern musical language. And for an even more up-to-date exploration of the genre, you can also see our list of violin concertos written by living composers. For this list we've opted for more contemporary recordings over historic classics.

No 1

Berg Violin Concerto

Itzhak Perlman; Boston SO / Seiji Ozawa (DG) CD from Amazon Download from Amazon

 

 

‘Though Perlman’s violin – beautifully caught – is closer than some will like, there is no question of crude spotlighting’
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No 2

Walton Violin Concerto

Nigel Kennedy; RPO / André Previn (EMI) CD from Amazon /Download from Amazon

 

 

‘Spaciously romantic and characteristically individual in every phrase’

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No 3

Shostakovich Violin Concerto No 2

Maxim Vengerov; LSO / Mstislav Rostropovich (Warner) CD from Amazon / Download from Amazon

 

‘Anyone who cares about the Shostakovich will want to hear this disc’

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No 4

Prokofiev Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No 2

Nikolaj Znaider; Bavarian RSO / Mariss Jansons (RCA Red Seal) CD from Amazon / Download from Amazon

 

‘These intelligent artists had me gasping anew at the giddy beauty and wondrous fantasy of Prokofiev’s stunningly inventive inspiration

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No 5

Britten Violin Concerto

Maxim Vengerov; LSO / Mstislav Rostropovich (EMI) CD from Amazon / Download from Amazon

 

‘The full-blooded recording not only covers the widest dynamic range, but brings out many inner details in the orchestral writing normally obscured’

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No 6

Sibelius Violin Concerto

Leonidas Kavakos; Lahti SO / Osmo Vänskä (BIS) CD from Amazon / Download from Amazon

 

 

‘Kavakos and the Lahti orchestra play splendidly throughout and the familiar concerto which was struggling to get out of the 1903–04 version emerges equally safely in their hands’

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No 7

Myaskovsky Violin Concerto

Vadim Repin; Kirov Orchestra / Valery Gergiev (Decca) CD from Amazon / Download from Amazon

 

‘Forceful music, epic in scale and earnestly argued’

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No 8

Szymanowski Violin Concerto No 2

Thomas Zehetmair; CBSO / Sir Simon Rattle (EMI) CD from Amazon / Download from Amazon

 

‘Uses for the most part a lovely but delicate tone, expanding to athletic incisiveness’

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No 9

Bartók Violin Concerto No 2

Arabella Steinbacher; Orchestre de la Suisse Romande / Marek Janowski CD from Amazon / Download from Amazon

 

‘I can’t think of a version of the Second Concerto, past or present, where structure and content are more thoughtfully balanced, or where significant points in the score are more lovingly underlined’

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No 10

Stravinsky Violin Concerto

Itzhak Perlman; Boston SO / Seiji Ozawa (DG) CD from Amazon / Download from Amazon

 

‘This is playing of some stature and still among the best’

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