Notes and Editorial Reviews
"...two magnificent performances. This is one of those discs you will want to listen to again and again. Recommended with utmost urgency."
Symphony No. 4
Franz Konwitschny, cond; David Oistrakh (vn); Staatskapelle Dresden
PROFIL 7005, mono (79:08)
In 28:4, I reviewed an Oistrakh recording of the Brahms violin concerto with Antonio Pedrotti conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. In that review, I presented, based on the best knowledge available to me at the time, a complete discography of Oistrakh’s many recordings of the work. Among them was one on DG with Franz Konwitschny and the Staatskapelle Dresden, the date of which I erroneously gave as 1953. As it turns out, the recording was made in 1954, and it is that performance, still available on DG and at least one other label, Ds Classics, that now turns up on this latest Profil release, stated in fact to be licensed from the DG original. The recording of course is in mono, as is the Tchaikovsky symphony taken from a performance in 1953.
Oistrakh’s Brahms concerto, especially in this recording of it, is a fairly well-known quantity, having long been available on a major line label, so I won’t dwell long on it. The recorded sound is gorgeous and Oistrakh’s tone at its most opulent. Konwitschny opts for a rather slower tempo than Pedrotti, allowing Oistrakh to take a more expansive view of the work and to negotiate the more technically challenging passages in a more relaxed and secure way. The violinist does not sound as frantic here as he does in the Pedrotti version. Particularly notable is that even in mono, the balance of this recording is such that the violin’s passagework is heard clearly and luminously through Brahms’s densest orchestral scoring, the result being that subtle details emerge that are often lost even in the most recent stereo recordings.
Konwitschny’s Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony seems to be a rarer item. This in fact is my first encounter with it. It too has superb sound, and the reading is not one I would necessarily have expected from this conductor. Konwitschny paces the score at rather quicker tempos than I’ve heard in some recent performances, and his interpretation is wound tight—nervous, agitated, and clearly disposed towards Tchaikovsky’s Fate-driven theme. In not a few ways, Konwitschny’s reading resembles Mravinsky’s legendary 1960 recording with the Leningrad Philharmonic. I’ve never quite warmed to Tchaikovsky’s Fourth as I have to his Fifth and Sixth, even though his Fourth may be his greatest symphony. The reason may be that I tend to find it somewhat fitful and disorganized; but a performance as taut and emotionally wrenching as this one goes a long way towards swaying me.
I hope there are few
readers who will pass up this CD because it is not a modern stereo recording. I can promise you the sound is spectacular and you will be acquiring two magnificent performances. This is one of those discs you will want to listen to again and again. Recommended with utmost urgency.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 77 by Johannes Brahms
David Oistrakh (Violin)
Written: 1878; Austria
Symphony no 4 in F minor, Op. 36 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Written: 1877-1878; Russia
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