CHARLOTTE SYMPHONY: BRAHMS VIOLIN
After the deluge of early 20th-century modernism, the constant tug-of-war between the canon and the modern in classical music only intensified. The players want to remain engaged and challenged with fresh material while directors and benefactors want asses in the seats — and nothing does that like the Greatest Hits. So a bill of Brahms’ only violin concerto (recorded in 1878) and Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony (1936) would have, at one time, represented something of a middle ground. But the Russian’s fifth is much more traditionally classical — it’s considered a romantic-era masterpiece by many, which was Brahms’ territory — than most of his symphonic works. On top of that, following his official denunciation by Stalinist critics just a few years earlier, that same traditionalism is often viewed as a concession to Soviet pressure. Others have argued there are hidden meanings and even parodies of socialist realism in the work, especially in the bombastic finale. So, while it’s still a part of the Greatest Hits canon (and Shostakovich’s most popular symphony), at least it’s got a good back-story. French violinist Augustin Dumay is the featured soloist for the Brahms masterpiece.