Notes and Editorial Reviews
DAVID OISTRAKH PLAYS
David Oistrakh (vn); Vittorio Gui, cond; RAI Milan SO;
Vladimir Yampolsky (pn)
IDIS 6583 (72:37) Live: Broadcast: 4/5/1960
Violin Sonata in D.
class="ARIAL12b">Violin Sonata in f,
op. 6/7, ?Au tombeau.?
Sonata a preghiera
David Oistrakh recorded Beethoven?s Violin Concerto in the studio in 1951 with Alexander Gauk and the USSR State Radio Orchestra and on June 10?11, 1954, with Sixten Ehrling and the Stockholm Festival Orchestra. This live performance, from 1960, postdates both of those. In its recorded sound, with the violin far forward but captured with lively fidelity (although there seems to be plenty of depth in the representation of the orchestral sound, even if the rhythm of the opening timpani strokes seems uncertain in the ambiance surrounding them), it gives a good idea of what the artist must have sounded like in the concerto in his early 50s (beefy but refined and, overall, radiant). His attention to expressive detail in the many passages constructed from scales and arpeggios lifts those passages above the materials from which they?ve been constructed. When a figuration repeats itself, Oistrakh doesn?t, often differentiating between successive occurrences of even the simplest figure. This approach sets itself apart both from Heifetz?s slicker readings of the first movement (as in his 1940 recording with Toscanini, with which many listeners seem to have enjoyed an extended love-hate relationship) and from the technically and tonally sterile readings of younger modern violinists (Vadim Repin?s on Deutsche Grammophon B0009663, which I reviewed in
31:4, and Isabella Faust?s on Harmonia Mundi 901944, which I reviewed in 32:4, could serve as notable exceptions). Yet he never indulges in mannerism to lift his reading out of the slough of anonymity (apologies to Bunyan?pilgrim John, not logger Paul). His figuration, too, sounds heavily rhythmic rather than smoothly elegant; his playing in Kreisler?s cadenza sounds similarly strong-minded and a bit on the virtuosic rather than the
side of the composer?s style (Kreisler expressed his admiration, and even preference, for Oistrakh among mid-20th century artists). Still if, as has been suggested, Oistrakh?s performances began in later years to match his physical portliness, that hadn?t happened in this reading from 1960. Anne-Sophie Mutter indulged during the slow movement in mannerisms that may strike many listeners as eldritch (with Kurt Masur, Deutsche Grammophon 289 471 349, which I reviewed in 26:5 and Mortimer Frank reviewed in 26:6); unlike her, Oistrakh seems to have found a way to explore without taking along highly specialized timbral tools of questionable appropriateness. If the woodwinds don?t support the soloist perfectly, Oistrakh glows through in the serene central section. Some roughness in double-stops seems to be about the whole price Oistrakh has paid for his robustness in the finale, which he converts into a stomping dance. He sounds particularly brilliant in the cadenza.
Oistrakh recorded Leclair?s sonata three times in the mid 1950s: in 1953 and 1955 with Yampolsky and in 1954 with Walter. RCA released the 1955 recording, in rather flat and tubby sound, on LP (LM 1987), and it?s become available more recently on CD (Monopole 006, 32:5). It doesn?t sound a great deal better here, but Oistrakh took a special interest in the sonata, even recording it on video (released on VHS in 1988 by Kultur). The Monopole reissue contained two skips (0:44 into the first movement and 1:18 into the third) that don?t occur in this remastering. Many listeners will nevertheless likely prefer the jauntier 1953 version, available on CD in Berlin 0184612BC, 32:5. The recording of Ysaÿe?s reworking of Locatelli?s F-Minor Sonata (sounding almost thoroughly romantic, not only in its arrangement but particularly in this performance) hails from the same date as the performance of Leclair, and originally appeared on the same RCA LP. Whether or not it?s echt-Baroque (or even nearly so), it showcases Oistrakh?s strong-minded interpretive manner.
Oistrakh recorded only a handful of Paganini?s works (a few caprices in 1946 and 1948?one of them, the 13th, in Kreisler?s arrangement) and this ?Sonata,? most often referred to as the
, in 1951. Paganini used to play it with the G string (the only one employed) tuned up to B?, this one begins near G? (written G, sounding B? with scordatura), so it?s not clear whether Oistrakh employed some other sort of scordatura or whether he recorded at written pitch and the engineers did something untoward. Still, it?s a treat to hear Paganini played brilliantly by the usually profound Oistrakh, even if there?s significant distortion in the last few measures of the recording.
For its remastering of a later reading of Beethoven?s concerto and for the Paganini bon bon, the Istituto Discografio Italiano?s release deserves a strong commendation to collectors. More general listeners should also be eager to acquire both the repertoire and the performances.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 61 by Ludwig van Beethoven
David Oistrakh (Violin)
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 04/05/1960
Length: 42 Minutes 18 Secs.
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