Stravinsky's Concertino for string quartet was the first of three versions of the piece. Composed in the summer of 1920 at Carantec and Garches, the work was suggested by Alfred Pochon, the leader of the Flonzaley Quartet. According to Stravinsky's Chronicles:
"M. Pochon wished to introduce a contemporary work into their almost exclusively classical repertoire, and asked me to write them an ensemble piece, in form and length of my own choosing, to appear in the programs of their numerous tours. So it was for them that I composed my Concertino, a piece in one single movement, treated in the form of a free sonata allegro with a definitely concertante part for the first violin."
Stravinsky's assertion that the Concertino is in "free sonata" form is accurate as far as it goes: the work does open with thematic material, which does return more or less intact later in the work. But the central section of the score is in a wholly different tempo, Andante, and is of a wholly different character than the outer sections, making the work seem more an ABA form than a sonata-allegro form. However, his claim that the work has "a definitely concertante part for the first violin" is thoroughly accurate. The central Andante section comes complete with a cadenza, and the Andante's return at the end of the work features an even more extended cadenza. Indeed, throughout the work, the first violin is treated as a solo instrument for which the other three instruments essentially provide an accompaniment.
Thirty-two years later, Stravinsky himself seems to have realized the extent to which the concertante principal determined the form of the composition, and he rearranged the work for solo violin, joined occasionally by a solo cello, plus ten wind and brass instruments which take over the role of the ripieno. One of only three works for string quartet in Stravinsky's entire oeuvre, the Concertino is a significant representative of the composer's slender chamber output.