Over the centuries, composers and violinists have collaborated in the creation of some of the instrument’s greatest works. In the 18th century, for instance, Vivaldi, JS Bach and Telemann were all friends with violinist Johann Georg Pisendel, leader of the Dresden Court Orchestra. Pisendel helped to popularise Vivaldi in Germany and it’s thought that his own Sonata for Solo Violin in A minor may have been one of the major influences on Bach’s music for solo violin.
Moving into the next century, Joseph Joachim, a protégé of Mendelssohn, later enjoyed close relations with Brahms. When writing his Violin Concerto in 1878, Brahms sent a copy of the first movement to Joachim, the work’s dedicatee, instructing him to point out bits that might be unplayable and, tellingly, to ‘correct it, not sparing the quality of the composition’.
It was Fritz Kreisler who, in 1905, persuaded Elgar to compose his Violin Concerto. Over the next five years, Kreisler made recommendations as the concerto took shape, and declared the finished article as the ‘greatest violin concerto produced since Beethoven’s’.
In the Soviet Union, David Oistrakh was a great source of encouragement to Prokofiev, prompting him to transform his Flute Sonata, Op. 94 into his Violin Sonata No. 2 in 1943. When, 25 years later, Shostakovich penned his Violin Sonata as a 60th-birthday present to Oistrakh, it was partly in thanks to a friend who had, over the years, often advised him on matters of technique and sound. And Oistrakh collaborated closely with Khachaturian too, submitting his own cadenza for the latter’s Violin Concerto in 1940.
Today’s composers also rely on soloists’ expertise. Anne Akiko Meyers’s work with Rautavaara in 2016 resulted in the Finn incorporating her changes to the bowing directions in Fantasia, one of his very last works.