WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Bach, Mozart, Brahms: Violin Concertos / David Oistrakh

Release Date: 02/22/2011 
Label:  Ica Classics   Catalog #: 5012  
Composer:  Johann Sebastian BachJohannes BrahmsWolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  David Oistrakh
Conductor:  Sir Colin DavisKiril KondrashinYehudi Menuhin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber OrchestraMoscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

David Oistrakh’s career as a violinist was a long one, nearly 40 years, but his exposure to Western audiences was painfully brief, only about 13 years before he turned full-time to conducting. Violinists marveled at his huge, dark, burnished sound, almost viola-like in its richness, in addition to his deeply emotional but not outré or sentimental readings. Here we are treated to three complete performances from the early 1960s, each with an outstanding and entirely sympathetic conductor.

The Bach Double Concerto is given a fine if, nowadays, old-fashioned reading by Oistrakh and his son Igor with the English Chamber Orchestra under Colin Davis. It’s interesting to hear father and son together; though an Read more outstanding violinist in his own right, Igor produced a tone not as burnished as his father’s, though they play in perfect sympathy with each other. If you are not allergic to Bach played with constant string vibrato, you’ll enjoy this performance, despite an inexplicable pitch waver at one moment in the second movement. Davis’s crisp, clean conducting is very fine, though it’s odd to modern ears to hear a piano continuo instead of harpsichord (played by Raymond Leppard), and it’s interesting to observe his calm, measured podium manner, leading his forces with just the right (baton) hand while he turns pages with his left.

In the Mozart, Oistrakh does indeed play viola, and exceptionally well at that. The very opening shot is a curio in that we see three fine violinists all standing in a row: Igor Oistrakh, David Oistrakh, and Yehudi Menuhin, the latter in the role of conductor. I’ve always been a huge fan of Menuhin’s conducting, and here is a good example why. The reduced Moscow Philharmonic forces are no smaller than the ECO, but they sound leaner, more stylistically authentic despite the use, once again, of vibrato in the string tone and finely graded dynamics. This performance has exactly the right feel and style about it that Menuhin’s performance of the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5, conducted by Karajan (reviewed in Fanfare 34:4), did not. Igor’s violin playing has a wonderful swing in the upward phrases that lifts and pushes the music along gently, while David displays his adeptness at playing what amounts to an obbligato part (albeit a very demanding one) with solo breaks. Altogether, this performance has a true ensemble feel to it, and if you can, again, tolerate string vibrato, it is a first-rate reading in every respect. Unlike Davis, Menuhin uses both hands to conduct, with wider arm movements and a bit more animation. Wonder of wonders, he is able to reduce the notorious watery vibrato of the Russian horns.

Kondrashin conducts the Brahms without a baton, in wide, fluid arm and hand movements, eliciting a rich sound from the Moscow forces. Oistrakh is equally robust in his reading of the solo part, which is astonishing in its breadth and sustained phrasing as well as the sharpness of his attacks with a full-bodied tone. An interesting footnote: At one point, I slid the timer bar back a minute or so in the first movement to catch a certain phrase again, and accidentally set it at half speed. The evenness of Oistrak’s tone, even at this wrong speed, revealed that he played with a gentle rather than an aggressive vibrato, which may have been the secret (or one of them, anyway) of his burnished tone. I found it quite interesting to compare this performance to the 1947 New York Philharmonic broadcast in which both conductor Artur Rodzinski and violinist Bronislaw Huberman drew a much leaner profile in this same music. Huberman, whose lower range also had a viola-like color, played his upper range with a much brighter, almost acidic quality, while Rodzinski and the orchestra were more of a participant in the ongoing musical drama and less in a supporting role.

Despite the sound glitch in the Bach, this is a highly recommended DVD, not only because all three performances are excellent in their own way but because it is a treat to watch this master violinist effortlessly producing a sound unlike no other.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley

Johann Sebastian Bach: Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043

Igor Oistrakh, violin
David Oistrakh, violin
English Chamber Orchestra
Colin Davis, conductor

Recorded at the Royal Festival Hall, 18 February 1961

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major, K. 364

Igor Oistrakh, violin
David Oistrakh, viola
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Yehudi Menuhin, conductor

Recorded at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 28 September 1963

Johannes Brahms: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77

David Oistrakh, violin
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Kirill Kondrashin, conductor

Recorded at the Royal Festival Hall, London, 19 September 1963

Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: LPCM Mono
Region Code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Running time: 94 mins
No. of DVDs: 1

Read less

Works on This Recording

Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  David Oistrakh (Violin)
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1717-1723; Cöthen, Germany 
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 77 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  David Oistrakh (Violin)
Conductor:  Kiril Kondrashin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Austria 
Sinfonia concertante for Violin and Viola in E flat major, K 364 (320d) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  David Oistrakh (Violin)
Conductor:  Yehudi Menuhin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1779; Salzburg, Austria 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title