Today the viola concerto in E-flat Major by Carl Friedrich Zelter (1758–1832) counts among the best-known viola concertos of the 18th century. Zelter, who started out as a master mason and later became an influential figure in the music history of the Prussian capital – the second director of the Berlin Sing-Akademie, professor at the Royal Prussian Academy of the Arts, a collector of music and composer of numerous songs – in his memoir describes the unusual genesis of his only surviving solo concerto. According to his specifications it was used in a triangular barter transaction between himself, a violist of the orchestra of the Döbbelinsches Theater and a secretary with whom Zelter was acquainted. As a result, in return for his newly-composed viola concerto Zelter was able to borrow the manuscript score of Georg Anton Benda’s (1722–1795) melodram Ariadne auf Naxos (LorB 476), of which he wanted to make a copy for himself. In that context he wrote about his concerto: “At the time I had just finished my viola concerto. It was the first endeavor after a long pause to present in a concerto more than merely something to play, mere entertainment. An emotive Allegro was to convey a serious mood, followed by a deeply moving Adagio that was to provide this mood with unrest and considerable turbulence, which would eventually rise to unrestricted ease in the Rondo, ending the work in a serene mood. Altogether, the concerto was to be a unified whole, and therefore I had interwoven some elements of the Adagio with the Rondo, which were presented in recitative style. My secretary was immensely pleased when he heard his concerto presented for the first time. It was performed twice in a row, and those who were listening expressed their satisfaction, encouraging me to continue on this path and to compose more works of this kind.”
By the preface from Phillip Schmidt
 Carl Friedrich Zelters Darstellungen seines Lebens, (= Schriften der Goethe-Gesellschaft, vol. 44), ed. Johann-Wolfgang Schottländer, Weimar, 1931, pp. 118, 120 f.
 Ibid., p. 120 f.