It premiered on 1 December 1935 in Madrid with the French violinist Robert Soetens and the Madrid Symphony Orchestra conducted by Enrique Fernández Arbós. Prokofiev wrote it after the first performance of his Sonata for Two Violins, by Soetens and Samuel Dushkin, which pleased him greatly. Dushkin had just recently had a concerto written for him, by Igor Stravinsky, so Prokofiev did the same for Soetens. Prokofiev was on a concert tour with Robert Soetens while he was working on the concerto, and later wrote, "The number of places in which I wrote the Concerto shows the kind of nomadic concert-tour life I led then. The main theme of the 1st movement was written in Paris, the first theme of the 2nd movement at Voronezh, the orchestration was finished in Baku and the premiere was given in Madrid."
The Spanish had liked the premiere so much that they sent a delegation of musicians to thank Prokofiev afterwards.
The first two British performances of the concerto were again with Robert Soetens: in 1936 under Sir Henry J. Wood, and in 1938, under the composer. Soetens played the work many times, all over the world, concluding with the premiere performance in South Africa in 1972, when he was aged 75 (he continued appearing in public until age 95, and died in 1997, aged 100).
The concerto is more conventional than the composer's early bold compositions. It starts off with a simple violin melody related to traditional Russian folk music. The graceful violin melody flows throughout the entire second movement, ends with the initial violin theme reappears in solo cello, accompanied by solo violin. The third movement rondo's theme has a taste of Spain, with the clacking of castanets each time the theme appears.
More pieces by Prokofiev
- Symphony No. 1, Classical
- Violin Concerto No. 1