on 19 January 2003
Quite simply, I would rate Oistrach's performance of the Brahms concerto here as the very best I have heard. A wonderfully atmospheric reading, perfectly paced, full of grandeur and warmth. The Tchaikovsky concerto is similarly a splendid performance. These are great documents from the past, worthy of any collection, although because of their age, the sound is a little mushy. But this is a minor criticism: it almost adds to the sense of a truly great occasion from the past.
The sound quality is not an issue on the Bach concertos and the Beethoven romances. Period performance purists may baulk at the sound of modern instruments in Bach playing, but Oistrach's lightness of touch manages to convince here so very well. The characteristic Oistrach warmth is clear as is a brilliant mix of the playful and serious. These are gorgeous performances, which for me are as great as they were when I first got hooked in the early seventies. Igor Oistrach joins his father in the Bach double violin concerto; surely the slow movement in particular is one of the greatest performances of all time.
And the Beethoven is simply beautiful. Lovely romantic miniatures performed to perfection by a musician clearly at the height of his powers.
Everything here is of the highest level of excellence. Oistrakh was the complete violinist - technically impeccable, capable of great beauty of phrasing and tone, subtly colouring and shading the music, and with a fine sense of line and structure. It's all here in these classic performances from 1954 to 1962. My own preferences are for the Brahms and Tchaikovsky on the second CD, but the Bach, which has stood in the catalogue ever since it was released, I think, is excellent and the Beethoven likewise. The sound is fine and the performances are well supported by the various orchestras and conductors.
This is simply fabulous, and a great bargain at the price. The Bach playing will strike some as old-fashioned, but it has plenty of life and feeling, and the 1962 stereo recording balances the violin against the orchestra perfectly, to my ears. Oistrakh conducts Bach's solo concertos from the bow, and very effectively too. In the wonderful Concerto for Two Violins, the other violinist is David's son Igor, and Goossens conducts, as he also does for the two Beethoven Romances. There is nothing showy about Oistrakh's playing -- it's well-integrated with the orchestral accompaniment, and it has a warmth of tone that is very appealing. The slow movement of the double concerto is outstanding, and the engineers do justice to both soloists and the orchestra. It might not meet the standards of "historically-informed performance" but there's no laying-on of sentimentality here -- just a nice directness.
The Brahms and Tchaikovsky concertos are from 1954 -- so some allowance (though not much) needs to be made for the sound, for the remastering (and probably the original production values) are excellent. Praise has to go to Konwitschny, who conducts with a Bohm-like mix of weight and energy that is almost as engaging as Oistrakh's playing. The orchestra is the Dresden Staatskapelle (in Dresden for the Brahms and Berlin for the Tchaikovsky) and it is for their sake that one wishes the sound more up-to-date. Oistrakh plays stupendously -- the slow movements of both concertos are given with great eloquence, and there's a real sense of fun in his handling of the faster passages in the outer movements of both concertos. I mentioned that in his Bach performances there was nothing showy -- well, maybe in the last movement of the Tchaikovsky he's strutting his stuff a bit. The combination of sly and not-so-sly humor with sheer athleticism is infectious, and nowhere does the tone sound anything but full and beautiful, for all the pace.
There are other great performances of these concertos -- Oistrakh himself did the Brahms twice more, with Klemperer and Szell -- and this is music that one needs to hear a number of good violinists attempt. You might hear as enchanting accounts as these, but none better.
on 6 September 2013
The sleeve notes remind that this is a mono recording (Analogue Digital Digital). Do not be put off. I played it on my Sony Super Audio deck with Mission speakers. The sound is stunning. It is clear, with depth and warmth only the superior analogue technology can preserve. I have many SACD recordings which do not compare well.
As for the performance, David Oistrakh shows how it is done. Perfect technique, exactly the right tempo (unlike all English versions in existence, which for some reason are rushed along like a whipped mare - let's face it: the English can't play baroque or classical music unless it is Purcell and if they do, steer well clear and do not buy). When it comes to ballet, classical music, reliable space technology or machine guns, it will have to be Russian. It is the law.