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David Oistrakh. 100th Birthday Edition - Violin Concertos and Chamber Music – Historic Russian Archives

BRILLIANT CLASSICS 9056 [20 CDs; 60.01 + 64.46 + 63.24 + 60.04 + 57.47 + 54.38 + 49.43 + 49.22 +56.35 + 56.31 + 76:02 + 69:01 + 61:26 + 69:07 + 75:29 + 79:44 + 77:02 + 68:19 + 72:55 + 75:49] 

Experience Classicsonline

Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor Op.64 (1844) [27.46]
State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/Kyrill Kondrashin, recorded 25 October 1949
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Violin Concerto in A minor Op.53 (1883) [33.18]
State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/Kyrill Kondrashin, recorded 7 September 1949
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor Op.99 (1948-55) [36.31]
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra/Yevgeny Mravinsky, recorded 18 November 1956
Violin Concerto No.2 in C sharp minor Op.129 (1967) [28.13]
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky, recorded 27 September 1968
Edouard LALO (1823-1892)
Symphonie Espagnole (1873) [31.42]
State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/ Kyrill Kondrashin, recorded 1 January 1947
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Scottish Fantasy Op.46 (1880) [31.29]
State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/Gennady Rozhdestvensky, recorded 24 December 1960
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major Op.61 (1806) [43.32]
State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/Gennady Rozhdestvensky, recorded 25 December 1962
Romance for Violin and Orchestra No.1 in G major Op.40 [7.32]
Romance for Violin and Orchestra No.2 in F major Op.50 [9.11]
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky, recorded 27 September 1968
Dmitri KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)
Violin Concerto in C major Op.48 (1949) [15.48]
State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/Carl Eliasberg, recorded 12 May 1949
Sergei TANEYEV (1856-1915)
Concert Suite for Violin and Orchestra Op.28 (1909) [41.50]
State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/Kurt Sanderling, recorded 20 September 1960
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Violin Concerto No.1 in D major Op.19 (1938) [20.06]
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Kyrill Kondrashin, recorded 7 September 1963
Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D major Op.35 (1880) [34.27]
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky, recorded 27 September 1968
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Violin Concerto in D minor Op.47 (1906) [29.18]
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky, recorded 14 February 1966
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Violin Concerto No.1 Sz.36 [20.06]
State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/Gennady Rozhdestvensky, recorded 24 December 1960
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Violin Concerto No.1 Op.35 (1916) [22.41]
State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/Kurt Sanderling, recorded 20 September 1960
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Violin Concerto (1939) [26.32]
State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/Gennady Rozhdestvensky, recorded 25 December 1962
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Violin Concerto in A minor Op.82 (1905) [21.42]
State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/ Kyrill Kondrashin, recorded 1 January 1947
Mazurka-Oberek in D major for violin and orchestra [9.37]
State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/Gabril Yudin, recorded 25 February 1950
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Počme for violin and orchestra Op.25 (1897) [15.50]
State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/Kyrill Kondrashin, recorded 15 March 1948
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Tzigane, Rhapsodie de concert, for violin and orchestra (1924) [9.07]
State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/Gennady Rozhdestvensky, recorded 24 December 1960
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Violin Concerto in D major (1931) [20.43]
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Kyrill Kondrashin, recorded 8 February 1963
Nicolai MIASKOVSKY (1881-1950)
Violin Concerto in D minor Op.44 (1938) [35.33]
State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/Alexander Gauk [10 January 1939]
David Oistrakh (violin) with accompaniments as above
Chamber Music
CD 11
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata no. 3 for keyboard and violin in D major K306 (300 I) [21:35]
12 Variations on a French Song "La Bergčre Célimčne" in G major, K359 [13:49]
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Vocalise [6:53]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Sonata No.3 [25:30]
Paul HINDEMITH  (1895-1963)
Violin Sonata no. 1 in E flat major, Op. 11/1 [8:14]
With Paul Badura-Skoda, (piano) (1-3)
Frida Bauer, (piano) (4, 6-9)
Inna Kollegorskaya, (piano) (5)
Vladimir Yampolski, (piano) (10, 11)
CD 12
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1898)
Sonata for violin and piano no. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 [23:10]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Trio no. 1 in D minor, Op. 63 [32:22]
Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Piano Trio no. 2 in F major, Op. 22 [13:35]
Sviatoslav Richter (piano) (track 1-4)
Sviatoslav Knushevitzky, (cello); and Lev Oborin, (piano) (track 5-8)
Sviatoslav Knushevitzky, (cello); and Lev Oborin, (piano) (track 9-11)
CD 13
Leos JANÁČEK (1854-1928)
Sonata for violin and piano [15:03]
Pancho VLADIGEROV (1899-1978)
"Song" no. 2 from the Bulgarian Suite, Op. 21/2 [7:15]
Racenista, for violin and piano, Op. 18/2 [7:06]
Fantasy on a Bulgarian Folk Dance "Khoro", Op 18/1 [7:57]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Passepied (from Suite Bergamasque) [4:00]
Prélude "La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin" [2:49]
Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967)
Hungarian Folk Dance [4:47]
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
Chant d'Amour, no. 3 from "Suenos" [3:19]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1949)
Spanish Dance arranged by Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962) [3:00]
Pablo de SARASATE  (1844-1908)
"Navarra", Spanish dance for 2 violins and piano, op. 33 [6:11]
With Frida Bauer (piano) (1-4, 8-10)
Abram Makarov (piano) (5,6)
Vladimir Yampolski (piano) (7,11-13)
Igor Oistrakh (violin) (13)
CD 14
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Sonata for violin and piano no. 1 in F minor, Op. 80 [28:04]
5 Melodies for violin and piano, Op. 35b
March, from "Love for 3 Oranges" for violin and piano [1:36]
Winter Fairy, from "Cinderella" [4:22]
Sonata for violin and piano no. 2 in D major, Op. 94a [22:18]
Lev Oborin (piano) (1-4)
Vladimir Yampolski (piano) (5-11)
Frida Bauer (piano) (12-15)
CD 15
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sonata for solo violin no. 1 in G minor BWV 1001 [17:30]
Eugčne YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Sonata for solo violin no. 3 in D minor ("Ballade"), Op. 27/3 [6:20]
Max REGER  (1873-1916)
Solo violin Prélude [4:28]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Andante [1:37]
Agitato e vigoroso [3:23]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Sonata for 2 violins in D major, Op. 56 [15:08]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Serenade for flute, violin and viola in D major, Op. 25 [26:39]
With Igor Oistrakh (violin) (7-12)
Grigory Madatov (flute) / Mikhail Terian (viola) (13-18)
CD 16
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Sonata for violin and piano no. 1 Sz 75 [33:55]
6 Romanian Folk Dances Sz 56 [5:30]
Josef SUK (1874-1935)
Un Poco Triste, O. 17/3 [4:31]
Burleska, Op. 17/4 [2:59]
Nicolai MEDTNER (1880-1951)
Nocturne no. 1 in D, Op. 16/1 [4:49]
Eugčne YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Počme Elégiaque, Op. 12 [12:44]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Legende in G minor, Op. 17 [7:51]
Aleksander ZARZYCKI (1834-1895)
Mazurka in G Major, Op. 25 [4:46]
With Frida Bauer (piano) (1-3)
Inna Kollegorskaya (piano) (4-9)
Abram Makarov (piano) (10,11)
Vladimir Yampolski (piano) (12-15)
CD 17
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sonata for 2 violins and continuo in C major, BWV 1037 [15:31]
Sonata for violin and keyboard no. 5 in F minor, BWV 1018 [20:12]
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)  
Sonata "Il Trillo del Diavolo" [14:33]
Tomaso VITALI (1663-1745)
Chaconne in G minor arranged Leopold Charlier [10:16]
Jean-Marie LECLAIR (1697-1764)
Sonata in D major, Op. 9/3 [12:26]
Antonio LOCATELLI (1695-1764)
Caprice "Harmonious Labyrinth" [4:23]
With Igor Oistrakh (violin) (1-4)
Vladimir Yampolski, (piano) (1-4, 10)
Lev Oborin, (piano) (5-8)
Frida Bauer, (piano) (9,11-15)
CD 18
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Fantasy in C major "Sei mir gegrüsst!"" D934 (Op. posth. 159) [19:44]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Sonata for violin and piano no. 2 in G major, Op. 13 [21:07]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Mazurek (Mazurka) in E minor, Op. 49 [6:30]
Bedřich SMETANA (1824-1884)
From my homeland no. 2 in G minor (Andantino) [7:13]
Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Mëditation (From Souvenir d'un lieu cher) Op. 42/1 [8:20]
Valse-Scherzo Op. 34 [5:20]
With Vladimir Yampolski (piano) (all tracks)
CD 19
Georgy L'vovich CATOIRE (1861-1926)  
Sonata no. 1 in B minor, Op. 15 (1900) [29:58]
Sonata no. 2 "Počme" in D Major, Op. 20 (1906) [20:24]
Elegy (1916) [3:47]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
3 Myths Op. 30 [18:46]
With Alexander Goldenweizer (piano) (1-5)
CD 20
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata for piano and violin no. 6 in A major, Op. 30/1 [24:10]
Sonata for piano and violin no. 4 in A minor, Op. 23 [20:27]
Sonata for piano and violin no. 9 "Kreutzer" in A Major, Op. 47 [31:18]
With Sviatoslav Richter (piano) (1-3)
Alexander Goldenweizer (piano) (4-6)
Frida Bauer (piano) (7-9)


Introduction. To celebrate the centenary of David Oistrakh’s birth Brilliant has conjoined in one vast, 20 CD box, its two ‘Concertos’ and ‘Chamber Music’ ten disc boxes. I reviewed the Concertos box, which is therefore reprinted as it stands, and now add a few thoughts about the Chamber Music.

Brilliant Classics has given us some valuable historic material - not much, but some - amongst which their Gilels set has probably taken pride of place up to now. But here comes an Oistrakh box of concertos that stakes out a high place for collectors' enthusiasm. All the items under discussion are leased from Gostelradiofund and I've tried to disentangle the known, the previously limited releases, the previously unreleased and the bolt from the blue (Miaskovsky). For ease of reading, rather than a Joycean stream of consciousness, here are a few thoughts.


From 1949 with Kondrashin and a famous 78 set, much reissued. Originally on Melodiya D017327/33 and other 78 issues it's seen service on a raft of budget LP labels such as Colosseum, Delta, Everest, Gala, Murray Hill, Tap and Vox. The violin is characteristically forward, the tuttis don't register with ideal weight and there's a bloated sound perspective, gaudy and not especially attractive; terrible side join at 4.19 (was this taken from an LP transfer?). The performance is very espressivo and romanticised, hugely affectionate, sometimes heavily so with real yearning intensity in the slow movement. In the finale Oistrakh constantly changes tone colour, bow pressure and vibrato usage to stunning effect though it's sometimes a tad relentless. The recording can turn his tone a touch brittle and there's another bad side join just after the pizzicati in the finale.


Sensibly coupled with the 1949 Mendelssohn because this was recorded a month earlier with the same conductor and orchestra. Less widely distributed than the Mendelssohn but you may have caught it rummaging in boxes and bins on La Chant du Monde, Colosseum, Eurodisc, Musidisc, Vanguard et al. Originally issued by Melodiya on D03064/65. Clear if rather clinical sound, abundant lyricism; not as febrile as Haendel, not as tightly coiled as Príhoda, with more overt expression than Suk, his is a famous interpretation. Fine series of diminuendi in the slow movement; sufficient orchestral detail to catch the ear, with the violin once more heavily spotlit. Astounding display of tonal and timbral contrasts between the upper and lower strings in the finale.

Shostakovich 1

Leningrad/Mravinsky, 1956. Once more a famed commercial disc, first issued on Melodiya D5540/1, D03658/9 and D033449/52. Reissued on labels ranging alphabetically from Bruno to Telefunken - to take in Period and Parlophone. His live Czech performance of the following year was faster and tighter but this recording of the work is an astounding contribution to recorded music and one that renders specifics unnecessary. It's obviously not to be confused with the New York/Mitropoulos recording of the same year on Columbia. Though other examples of his way with the work have appeared, not least those with his son Maxim, this and the Mitropoulos are the reference recordings. Only demerits - the intense focus on the solo instrument at the expense of orchestral detail, occasional distortion and a touch of overload in the finale

Shostakovich 2

From 1968, a live performance once released on Melodiya C10-17502 - not the same performance as the 1968 Svetlanov live recording that came out on Intaglio CD. Nor the same year's Moscow/Kondrashin live performance that was also issued on Melodiya and licensed to Eurodisc, HMV, Melodiya-Angel in America et al. This Rozhdestvensky-led performance came from the same concert that gave us the Tchaikovsky, also in this set, which was a 60th birthday concert. The performance is in good sound for its late sixties vintage and is searingly powerful; the violin/trombone exchanges are remarkable.


From 1947. Again a much re-released disc, first on D015565/72. "Usual Suspects" label re-issues such as Delta, Design, Hall of Fame, as well as Supraphon and Vox. Poor recording, blowsy and scuffy and lacking definition. Oistrakh characterful and emotive, Kondrashin powerful and outsize. Oistrakh is right under the mike allowing extreme pianissimos in the first movement; the Intermezzo is thankfully intact and is full of lissom expression and deft colour. The Andante sounds rather like Tchaikovsky here; superlative bowing in the finale.

Bruch Scottish Fantasy

The only previously known Oistrakh recording of this work, to me, was the LSO/Horenstein 1962 on Decca. This is from two years earlier once more with Rozhdestvensky. Pliancy and delicacy inform the solo playing - no Heifetz finger position changes to heighten tension. Inward, introspective but well projected. The orchestra sounds rather spread in the perspective. Some untidiness in the second movement - brusque conducting as well and not a patch on Masur's for Accardo, with balance crudities that may be the recording's fault as much as the conductor's. Occasionally Oistrakh's intonation wanders, a few coughs; a touch crude taken as a whole, well though Oistrakh plays.


Terra very cognita of course but not this performance of the concerto dating from 1962. The Cluytens is the reference recording, the 1950 Gauk is in limbo, the live Abendroth seems to have gone, the commercial Melodiya Abendroth likewise. There was a Gui from 1960 on Fonit-Cetra. Here in Moscow the orchestra is adequate but no more. Rozhdestvensky over-emphatic, the sound unflatteringly shrill on occasion. Some quick solo portamenti in the slow movement with increasing vibrato intensity after 4.30. Very short linking passage to the finale. Conductor once again blustery and unhelpful.


This predates the commercial recording conducted by the composer (USSR State, 1955 - D17231/6, D489 etc). Marked by superb pizzicati, luscious contours, sleazy trumpets, a delightfully pirouetting Andantino and in the finale some of the fastest bowing in the East (outside Kogan). If it has to be done, let this be the way.


You'll probably have the Malko, if you have it at all. There's a Kondrashin - USSR State - on Bruno, which is undated. This Brilliant is from 1960 with Sanderling, same orchestra; I've not heard the Bruno and am assuming they've not been misidentified. Rather treble dampened this, dry and airless. Oistrakh reaches a peak of impassioned power at the end of the Prelude as we move from baroque gestures to more impressionist colours. Elegance personified in the Variations, beefy when necessary (beef was an Oistrakh speciality) superb in the Fairy Tale. For reasons of recording quality not to be preferred to the Philharmonia/Malko (Malko an old colleague, for whom Oistrakh had led an orchestra in Miaskovsky's symphonic works in the 1920s).

Prokofiev 1

I always associate him more with No.2 but this is quite wrong discographically. Multiple examples of No 1 on record - Kondrashin on 78s, Golovanov likewise (where's that been hiding?), Strasbourg/Bour, the famous von Matacic 1965 HMV, Termirkanov 1970, a Sanderling from the following year, rumours (unfounded so far) of a Prokofiev conducted traversal - that was the claim on Period SPL 739 anyway. Here with Kondrashin in '63 he's commanding; fine orchestral control by Kondrashin; undaunted technique from the soloist, ringing pizzicati, lyricism and drama balanced, one wolf note intrudes, wonderful legato in the finale, balletic warmth, superb trills, Kondrashin's marshalling of lower brass top notch.


There was Gauk, Kondrashin (twice) and Samosud - never come across that last one, with the Bolshoi on Vox, Murray Hill and Joker. Kempe '59 preceded the famous Ormandy of 1960, though you will have come across the Konwitschny/Saxon in a cheapo box - maybe the Heliodor. This is the 27th September 1968 Rozhdestvensky conducted traversal. It was recorded live and there are a few "noises off." Oistrakh takes a good tempo for the first movement, not especially quick it must be said, quite patrician; good pirouetting lines and a well despatched cadenza, one note apart, with stout trumpets accompanying. Sensitively phrased slow movement, very lyric phraseology. Rather feminine sounding moments in the finale, quite exciting albeit with blustery conducting. Comparison with the Melodiya transfer in their big Oistrakh CD box favours the Russian disc - clearer at a higher level; simple test, you can hear the orchestral chairs scraping far more in the Melodiya than in the Brilliant transfer.


Another speciality concerto. A Gauk led performance is out of circulation, the Ehrling is the famous recording, though the Ormandy was certainly respectable, a Finnish Radio go-through with Fougstedt is on Ondine CD, and frequent collaborator Rozhdestvensky chips in with a widely publicised 1965 commercial disc on Melodiya C01077/8, leased to Ariola-Eurodisc, Mobile Fidelity, Musical Heritage, Vox and others besides. This Brilliant dates from 1966 and is full of weighty articulation. Not Oistrakh's very best playing but still commanding, with the conductor for once earning his keep - intense head of steam from Rozhdestvensky. Big hearted slow movement, obtrusive whistled note, passionate commitment. Being live there are some coughs and a few executant slips in the finale. On balance the contours of this performance are almost identical with his Finnish broadcast of over a decade earlier, though the 1965 broadcast sported a much slower second movement.

Bartók 1

The Bartók concertos make infrequent appearances in the official discography. There's a '62 No.1, again with Rozhdestvensky, released on C0661 and licensed to Urania, Period, Le Chant du Monde and others and picked up by Forlane but otherwise little (it's a different matter with the First Sonata) - no No.2. This is a strong, sinewy and powerfully contoured reading, with compelling brass interjections and a steady stream of lyric infusion from the soloist - real shades of colour and nobility.

Szymanowski 1

A Warsaw performance of No.1 has surfaced with Stryja but otherwise the Leningrad/Sanderling of 1959 has been the staple - D05180/1 with releases in the West on labels such as Forlane and Urania. Brilliant states their performance is a State Symphony/Sanderling of 20th September 1960. The recording is a bit blatant; orchestra sounds distant, some luscious Oistrakh moments but not enough orchestral detail and whilst he plays with exquisite panache at the top end of his register the whole performance can sound a shade unconvincing architecturally.


The LSO/Hindemith disc of September 1962 was made three months before this live taping with Rozhdestvensky. Though there seems to be a conflict of dates - an alternative source lists August 1962 - this seems to be the same live performance that Melodiya released on C0662 and that was picked up subsequently by Le Chant du Monde, Eurodisc and the same usual labels - but also by Victor (JVC). Considerable delicacy here and intimate playing between the more stentorian passagework. Firm chording, committed orchestral playing, cracking intonation pretty much all the way through, very bold brassy accompaniment.


This is the commercial 1947 Kondrashin - I don't know of any other survival. This had a wide distribution after the initial Melodiya D03040/7. Also reissued on Praga CD but Brilliant sounds better - more immediate and clearer; note a slight pitch discrepancy between the two as well. The reading is warm and affectionate, not searingly brilliant - very expressive Andante, delicacy in the winds, first class cadenza, tremolandi splendid, pervasive feeling of quiet melancholy. Slightly congested recording but not damaging.

Chausson and Ravel

Very forward sound in the Chausson, his commercial undertaking in 1948 with Kondrashin, which has a full plethora of evocative sounds. The Ravel is commendably brisk in the old manner, back in the days when musicians knew how to play Ravel's chamber works. No phrase breaks; craft and commitment and his only recording of it, much reissued (sample Monitor and Westminster for starters).


We know the Lamoureux/Haitink Philips of 1963 but there's also a later Berlin Symphony/Sanderling Melodiya M10-46420. The Brilliant team have uncovered a Kondrashin-Moscow reading that was taped in the same year as the Haitink, the decade in which Oistrakh turned to this work. He catches the gutty wit of it, with good, if rather recessed orchestral detail, and big tone in the first aria - demonstrating his adaptability; good shadowing wind figures marshalled by Kondrashin, with a strong and weighty Capriccio finale.


From 1939 and a claimed date of 1st January. This must be a misprint for 10th, the date of the premiere, which makes this something of a startling coup. Oistrakh was the dedicatee and had a hand in the writing of elements of the concerto. The recording is not good; violin very forwardly placed with a mushy and sometimes distorted orchestral backdrop. Side breaks as well - at 6.11 with half a second gap. Oistrakh highlights some phrases more freely and expressively than he did in his later commercial recording. The concert performance is predictably tighter than the disc -soloist reaches zenith of lyricism in first movement, though gorgeously sweet toned in Adagio. Interesting to hear the identical tempo in the finale up to about 2.50 where we find the trill episode goads Oistrakh to a much faster live tempo. It will be a trial for the generalist to listen to this - to the admirer it is a wonderful artefact, notwithstanding the problems.

Chamber Music


The gem here is the Martinů Third Sonata, which doesn’t otherwise feature on the violinist’s logbook of commercial recordings. He probably encountered it during one of his many visits to Prague. This is bold, fiery and excitingly intense. Both Mozart pieces were recorded with Badura-Skoda at around this time – buoyant warm-hearted playing.


The Brahms Op.108 is a less statuesque and more vivid performance than the commercial recording Oistrakh left behind with Yampolsky (Melodiya 1952 and EMI remake of 1955). With Richter things are more intense. There’s a Czech recorded Frieda Bauer from 1966, but the Richter performance will most certainly do – beefy and masculine. The Schumann trio features his trio in an otherwise unrecorded Op.63 trio from 1961. Oistrakh recorded very little Schumann which makes this survivor all the more winning. The trio also takes on Hummel’s F major and their rococo grace is a tonic.


Czech music lovers will enjoy the decision over whether to treat the Martinů or Janáček sonatas as their first port of call. Both are splendidly virile. The former probably, as he did record the Janáček, as here with Bauer, three years later. But he makes tremendous narrative sense in this live performance and the tonal fires burn brightly. He only recorded one of the three Vladigerov pieces (Khoro) – the composer was much admired by Svetlanov by the way.


A disc devoted to Prokofiev is pretty much self-recommending. The First and Second sonatas are here – the former from 1946, the latter from 1972. I’m assuming that the First is a commercial Melodiya.


The fifteenth disc contains, very surprisingly, the only solo Bach piece Oistrakh ever recorded, the G minor Sonata in 1947. It’s typically robust, thoughtful, and expressive – but not rhythmically stodgy as some later Russian performances of the Sonatas and the Partitas are inclined to be. Similarly – and following it - is the only one of the Ysa˙e solo sonatas he ever recorded, No.3 dedicated to Enescu. He left behind two powerful inscriptions of it, and this is the first Melodiya, again from 1947. You’ll have to ignore Brilliant’s ever-present instruction that these are all ‘live’ performances. I tend to think that this means that the performer was alive, rather than these are ‘live’ in the accepted sense. The tremendous Prokofiev Sonata for two violins is here, a 1961 performance, from David and Igor – and a terrific performance too. The Beethoven Serenade is a commercial Melodiya with flautist Grigory Madatov and violist Mikhail Terian and seldom encountered.


The Bartók First Sonata housed in disc 16 is neither the 1972 Bauer (on Praga, live) nor the Melodiya Richter performance but one from the previous year with Bauer. The Romanian Folk Dances are apparently not the studio Yampolsky ones but with Inna Kollegorskaya, with whom Oistrakh did some recording in the later 1940s. The remainder of this disc – Suk, Medtner, Ysa˙e, Wieniawski and Zarzycki – consists of Melodiyas from 1947-53 and well known, as well as being brilliantly played.


The beautiful performance of the C major sonata by Bach for two violins and continuo with Igor Oistrakh and Yampolsky starts disc 17. It’s seen long service on Melodiya, Monitor, Colosseum etc and is beautifully measured in the accepted Romantic fashion. The F minor Violin Sonata is another commercial undertaking, this time from 1952. The Devil’s Trill from 1967 sounds live to me but the Vitali Chaconne is a commercial studio recording. The famous recording of the Leclair Sonata is with Yampolsky but this one is a live 1962 performance with Bauer.


The Schubert Fantasy can be a death trap for unwary duos but not Oistrakh and the excellent Yampolski in their 1961 performance; the violinist set it down for Melodiya with Bauer. Oistrakh recorded the Grieg G major sonata with Oborin for Melodiya but this Yampolski traversal is no less warm – quite a straight reading in fact. I’m not sure about the two Czech items, the Dvořák Mazurek and Smetana – they’re both early, especially the 1949 Smetana, but I can’t find confirmation that they were commercially recorded so I assume they are off air. The two Tchaikovskys, I think, are studio readings.  


Oistrakh was one of Catoire’s most eloquent proselytisers and no one has ever summoned up the same passionate lyricism as he did. Tonal breadth we can take for granted but the ebb and flow of the sonatas and the expressive Elegie are perfectly realised in these magnificent readings made between 1948 and 1952 with Goldenweiser. I believe the sonatas are commercial but I was under the impression that the Elegie was recorded for Melodiya with Yampolsky so I’m hedging my bets. His alluring Szymanowski Myths is an apt pendant to his recording of the First Concerto contained in the ‘Concertos’ set, though there have been more evocative and atmospheric readings.


The last disc is devoted to three Beethoven sonatas with three outstanding pianists. They make for fine contrastive performances to the complete set recorded with Oborin. I’m convinced that the A minor with Goldenweiser is from the commercial 1950 Melodiya but the others – Richter in the Op.30 No.1 and Bauer in the Kreutzer are live.


All these performances are from Russian sources, either commercial or off-air. They're all, in a sense, supplementary to primary recommendations - the Lalo for instance is superb but it was supplanted by the 1954 Martinon, the Shostakovich 1 by the Mitropoulos and so on. But the value of the box lies in its breadth and bulk, in its capturing, unearthing or re-issuing of some of the most consistently memorable violin playing of the twentieth century in repertoire entirely congenial to Oistrakh. And in some cases the performances here, for example the Third Brahms Sonata, are decisively superior to the commercial undertaking.

There's one outstanding rarity - the apparent first performance of the Miaskovsky. What we need now is for someone to dig up examples of his Moscow cycles of the History of the Violin concerts - which included both the Elgar and Walton concertos amongst much else. Whatever sonic limitations this box may possess, the chance to own, to compare and to contrast multiple recordings by this artist is an unmissable one, and rendered even more so by the budget price range. What are you waiting for?


Jonathan Woolf


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