Brilliantly played, Britten Violin Concerto is highlight of this week's Dallas Symphony concert

Amid worldwide turmoil over immigration, and an international rise of right-wing militancy, this week's Dallas Symphony Orchestra concert includes two works with relevant histories.

With the start of World War II, frustrations personal, professional and political prompted the English composer Benjamin Britten to spend three years in Canada and the U.S. The Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů fled the Nazi invasion of France, where he had lived for 17 years, to spend a dozen difficult years in America. 

The aging Richard Strauss, on the other hand, sat out the war in Germany and Austria, in ambiguous detente with the Third Reich. His tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra, completing this week's program, was composed decades earlier. 

The Britten Violin Concerto, played with absolute authority and jaw-dropping finesse by the Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang, was the highlight of the Thursday concert, at the Meyerson Symphony Center. Completed a few months after the composer's arrival in Canada, it's haunted by sadness--and anger--at the Spanish Civil War.  Although nominally in the traditional three movements, the concerto hardly adheres to traditional procedures.

Timpani set down a three-note signature, to which strings respond with yearning harmonies. The soloist strings out a lyric lament, but martial music interrupts, after which nothing seems quite predictable.

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