Britten was so remarkably prolific as a young composer that many of the works from his teens were put aside to await revision or completion as he rushed on to the next piece. This was particularly the case around the time of his Opus 1 Sinfonietta, composed in the summer of 1932, his second year as a student at the Royal College Of Music.
The Sinfonietta was written (in less than three weeks) very soon after Britten had completed the first draft of the Double Concerto; but after finishing the Sinfonietta he went back to revise the Concerto's second movement. He started work on his Op.2 Phantasy for Oboe and String Trio a few weeks later.
Although the Concerto follows the same three-movement pattern as the Sinfonietta, it is more ambitious in scale; and since the sketch is, unusually for Britten, complete in practically every detail, it is puzzling that he never made a full score of the work after finishing the composition, and seems to have made no attempt to get it performed. It is not clear if he had particular performers in mind (he was, of course, a Viola player, although he is not likely to have intended the part for himself). He showed the work to his composition teacher at the college, John Ireland, who, as Britten recorded in his diary, was 'pretty pleased' with it; but it is distinctly possible that his experience in rehearsing the Sinfonietta with a student orchestra in 1932 ('I have never heard such an appalling row!' reads another diary entry) discouraged him from going on to complete the Double Concerto in score. He was not to hear any of his orchestral works until the first performance of Our Hunting Fathers in 1936.
In the absence of Britten's full score it was necessary for me to prepare the work from the sketch. But the instrumentation is so carefully indicated in the draft that the resulting score is not far from being 100% Britten - only between bars 70 and 74 of the slow movement did there seem to be any need to add anything significant to Britten's texture. The Double Concerto (Britten's manuscript title was 'Concerto In B Minor', but he referred to it in his diary, in characteristic shorthand, as '2ble Concerto') is the most recent addition to his corpus of works, mostly dating from Britten's youth and early maturity, that, since his death, have been revived after many years, or performed for the first time. Britten himself occasionally returned to his early works, and in his last years revised both the early String Quartet In D of 1931 and the opera Paul Bunyan.
The Piano score published separately is not a reduction from the orchestral score, but a transcription of Britten's composition sketch, including his indications of instrumentation.
The first performance of the Double Concerto was given at the 50th Aldeburgh Festival by Katherine Hunka and Philip Dukes, with the Britten-Pears Orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano, on June 15th 1997.