It is a four-movement fantasy on Scottish folk melodies. The first movement is built on "Through the Wood Laddie". This tune, with its prominent Scots snap, also appears at the end of the second and fourth movements. The second movement is built around "The Dusty Miller", the third on "I'm A' Doun for Lack O' Johnnie", and the fourth movement includes a sprightly arrangement of "Hey Tuttie Tatie", the tune in the patriotic anthem "Scots Wha Hae" (with lyrics by Robert Burns).
In paying homage to Scottish tradition (although the composer only visited Scotland a year after the premiere, he had access to a collection of Scottish music at Munich library in 1868), Bruch's composition gives a prominent place to the harp in the instrumental accompaniment to the violin.
Bruch composed the work in Berlin during the winter of 1879–1880. Despite the dedication to Sarasate, Joseph Joachim was involved in the fingering and bowing of the solo part prior to the composition going to press at Simrock as Fantasie: für die Violine mit Orchester und Harfe unter freier Benutzung schottischer Volksmelodien, Op. 46.
The premiere was in Liverpool on 22 February 1881 with Bruch, who was the director of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society, conducting and Joachim as the soloist. Bruch was unhappy with Joachim’s performance, describing him as having "ruined" the work. When Bruch conducted the work with Sarasate as the soloist at a Philharmonic Society concert in St. James’s Hall on 15 March 1883; it was titled Concerto for Violin (Scotch). At a concert that Bruch conducted in Breslau, also with Sarasate as the soloist, the work was titled Third Violin Concerto (with free use of Scottish melodies, Op. 46).
Many famous violinists have recorded the work, including Jascha Heifetz (1947 and 1961), Michael Rabin (1957), David Oistrakh (1962), Kyung-wha Chung (1972), Arthur Grumiaux (1973), Salvatore Accardo (1977), Ruggiero Ricci (live, 1980s), Cho-Liang Lin (1986), Itzhak Perlman (1986), Anne Akiko Meyers (1992), Vanessa-Mae (1996), Akiko Suwanai (1997), Rachel Barton Pine (2004), Aaron Rosand (2007), and Nicola Benedetti (2014)
The opus consists of the following movements:
The work is scored for the following instruments:
- solo violin
- 2 flutes
- 2 oboes
- 2 clarinets
- 2 bassoons
- 4 horns
- 2 trumpets
- 3 trombones
- bass drum
- suspended cymbal (played with triangle beater)
- Bruch, Max (1880). Fantasie für die Violine mit Orchester und Harfe, unter freier Benutzung schottischer Volksmelodieen, Op. 46. Berlin: N. Simrock, GmbH.
- Fitfield, Christopher (2005). Max Bruch: His Life and Works. Boydell Press. ISBN 1-84383-136-8.
- Pine, Rachel Barton (2005). Scottish Fantasies for Violin and Orchestra (CD). Cedille Records. CDR 90000 083. Retrieved 2010-01-16.
- Steinberg, Michael (2000). The Concerto: A Listener's Guide. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513931-3.