DAVID OISTRAKH COLLECTION, VOL. 13 • David Oistrakh (vn); Vladimir Yampolsky (pn) • DOREMI 7950, mono (70:19) Live: Paris 1/21/1959; Los Angeles, 19651
TARTINI Violin Sonata in g, “Didone abbandonata.” FRANCK Violin Sonata. SCHUMANN(arr. Kreisler) Read more class="ARIAL12b">Fantasia in C. RAVEL Tzigane. BACH Violin Sonata No. 2 in a: Andante1
DOREMI’s 13th volume dedicated to David Oistrakh combines what seems to be a complete recital with Vladimir Yampolsky from 1959 with a quasi-encore, the third movement from Bach’s Second Solo Violin Sonata, from 1965. The recital program opens with Tartini’s “Didone abbandonata,” a work that Oistrakh recorded for Melodiya, along with the “Devil’s Trill,” with Frida Bauer in 1970. Oistrakh sounded magisterial from the first measure of the first movement; but he didn’t pause to wring sentiment from the sprightly second movement, nor did he play the final Allegro commodo (he interposed an extraneous Largo in B? Major—published with the other movements—as was common at the time) in such a way as to suggest the pathos of Virgil’s tragedy. Nevertheless, his performance strikes a balance between expressivity and objectivity, an intoxicating antidote to the tendency to deprive this Sonata of Tartini’s hallmark vitality. Throughout his career, Tartini progressively dispensed with the heavily worked-out figured bass, and some have suggested that even the skeletal version of the bass that’s left in the “Devil’s Trill” could simply be omitted. So it’s perhaps no criticism to mention that Oistrakh dominates Yampolsky in this work.
DOREMI’s series reveals Oistrakh’s commitment to chamber music as well as his willingness to “sink the individual,” and his performance of Franck’s Sonata illustrates both of these attitudes. Yampolsky may not have possessed the dynamism of Sviatoslav Richter, three of his live performances of the work with whom from the mid 1960s have been available from time to time (he made studio performances with Oborin in 1950 and with Yampolsky in 1954); but Oistrakh, though the dominant partner, didn’t run roughshod over his frequent accompanist. Testament has released a live performance by the duo from the preceding year (9/20/1958) in Bucharest (1442); this one seems more given to subtlety and nuance.
The Bucharest recital also included Schumann’s Fantasia, which Oistrakh seems never to have recorded in the studio, and Ravel’s Tzigane, which he did (with Kondrashin and the USSR State Symphony Orchestra, a solid performance, the recorded sound of which still seemed more than acceptable in the mid 1960s, when it appeared on LP as Monitor MC 2073). In Bucharest, Oistrakh projected a strong individuality as well as a captivating (and in the last pages, downright scintillating) virtuosity through both Schumann’s work and Kreisler’s arrangement, and he did so as well in his performance in Paris. Oistrakh spits out the passages on the high G string in Ravel’s opening cadenza. Oistrakh didn’t play the Tzigane with Francescatti’s arch wit nor with Heifetz’s white-hot intensity, but his performances generally could serve as models of Gypsy excess rationally moderated. In this reading, he explores the beginning of the accompanied section almost tentatively before throwing himself into the spiky passagework. This performance, perhaps more than the others, creates an atmosphere suggesting a Gypsy campfire—or at least the reflection of one on the wall of a French drawing room.
Since so few examples of Oistrakh playing Bach’s solo sonatas or partitas have become available (DOREMI 7760 included a complete performance of the First Solo Sonata, 24:6), every stray movement should be particularly welcome to collectors. If his live performance of the Andante from the Second Sonata communicates an impression of strength rather than of subtlety; Oistrakh demonstrates through his deployment of a wide dynamic range just how tall an edifice he could erect with this movement’s building materials.
The recorded sound from Paris (air-checks?) balances the instruments fairly well; and, while it may not be particularly lively, communicates adequately a sense of Oistrakh’s sound, at once oleaginous and fibrous. In an interview, Yehudi Menuhin noted that Oistrakh fused control with abandon, and he appears to have struck a different balance from performance to performance, even those close in temporal proximity. That’s why it’s easy to recommend this recital strongly, despite its similarity in content to the one Testament has released.