Anthony Burgess wrote his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E Minor for the famous violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999), whom Burgess had known since they met while filming a programme for the BBC in 1964. Burgess reviewed Menuhin’s autobiography Unfinished Journey positively on publication in 1977, and their friendship resulted in Burgess’s 1979 composition.
It is an ambitious three-movement work that has some stylistic similarities with Burgess’s Symphony in C and Concerto for Pianoforte and Orchestra in Eb; there are some influences from Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 and the piece also has some material from Burgess’s own Blooms of Dublin, his musical version of James Joyce’s Ulysses that was eventually completed in 1982.
Menuhin responded warmly to Burgess’s piece, writing to him to say that ‘I was amazed to receive so excellent, professional and viable violin concerto from you […] It has flow, impetus, thematic construction, a good cadenza and an interesting slow movement in its development and its gradual acceleration of pace. When time permits, which is unfortunately not this year – or possibly even next, I should like to suggest that I should one day perform it […].
Menuhin ultimately never performed the work, which is still awaiting its world premiere.
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