Mendelssohn originally proposed the idea of the violin concerto to Ferdinand David, a close friend and then concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Although conceived in 1838, the work took another six years to complete and was not premiered until 1845. During this time, Mendelssohn maintained a regular correspondence with David, seeking his advice with the concerto. The work itself was one of the violin concertos of the Romantic era and was influential to the compositions of many other composers.
Although the concerto consists of three movements in a standard fast–slow–fast structure and each movement follows a traditional form, the concerto was innovative and included many novel features for its time. Distinctive aspects of the concerto include the almost immediate entrance of the violin at the beginning of the work (rather than following an orchestral preview of the first movement's major themes, as was typical in Classical era concertos) and as a whole, the concerto has a through-composed form, in which the three movements are melodically and harmonically connected and played attacca (each movement immediately following the previous one).
The concerto was initially well received and soon became regarded as one of the greatest violin concertos of all time. The concerto remains popular and has developed a reputation as an essential concerto for all aspiring concert violinists to master, and usually one of the first Romantic era concertos they learn. Many professional violinists have recorded the concerto and the work is regularly performed in concerts and classical music competitions.
Mendelssohn also wrote a virtuoso violin concerto in D minor between 1821 and 1823, when he was 12 to 14 years old, at the same time he produced his twelve string symphonies. This work, "rediscovered" in 1951 by Yehudi Menuhin, is also known as the Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra in D minor, and as Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto No. 1 (the E minor concerto alternately known as Violin Concerto No. 2).