Music: Making the Strings Sing Again

Six new concertos offer a lively survey of modern styles

The twin obstacles in the path of contemporary music are the past and the recent past. In the violin repertoire, the beloved romantic concertos have maintained such an iron grip on audience affections that even indisputable 20th century masterworks have been neglected in favor of the millionth performance of the Beethoven, Brahms or Tchaikovsky concertos. It has not helped that some compositions of the '50s and '60s amounted to teeth-grinding assaults on the instrument that made both soloists and audiences recoil.

But times are changing, and not a moment too soon. "The violin is being looked at again as a great...

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