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Britten's violin concerto

Benjamin Britten composed his only violin concerto in 1938-9 during an exile of sorts in North America:

he had left England as a pacifist and would return in 1942 as a conscientious objector.

It's a troubled score, full of longing and nervy tension. Britten had been at the premiere of Alban Berg's violin concerto in Barcelona in 1936, just before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, and Spanish character underpins his own concerto. The opening scales rise and fall restlessly over Spanish rhythms, and the work closes with a haunting passacaglia.

Vilde Frang describes the concerto as "immense", "deep" and one of her favourite works.

"The percussion opening is so militaristic, so much of a premonition for what was to come in the Second World War. And there's a constant struggle in the violin part - near the end, the orchestra urges the violin to come to their side, where they are lingering in a kind of paradise.

"It's something extremely difficult to resist but the violinist has to remain alone. It feels like I'm fighting against death. Actually I've never felt closer to death than when I am playing this piece."

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