Bartók’s Violin Concerto (1937-1938) is dedicated to his friend, the violinist Zoltán Székely, and echoes the political situation in Hungary that ultimately led the artist to leave his homeland. Though it follows traditional concerto structure, the second and third movements reflect the composer’s original conception of the work as a set of variations.
Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 (1937) is a product of Soviet-era socialist realism and reflects its commitment to glorifying socialist values. Ostensibly simpler and more traditional than its predecessor, it establishes itself as a true “Soviet symphony,” yet underlying its third movement is a requiem for victims of the regime. Its harsh sonorities and elements of parody and nightmare, softened by heartrending melancholy, are clear evidence of the Russian composer’s mastery of his craft.