Arthur BLISS (1891-1975)
Fanfare [1:47]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Violin Concerto No.2 in C sharp minor Op.129 (1967) [28.01]
Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D major Op.35 (1880) [33:41]
David Oistrakh (violin)
London Symphony Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Maxim Shostakovich (Tchaikovsky)
rec. 19 November 1967, Royal Festival Hall, London and 26 November 1972, Royal Albert Hall, London (Tchaikovsky)
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4267-2 [63:48]

Sated as we are with live Oistrakh material, one could easily pass by this release without noting that the live performance of the Shostakovich is its ‘Western’ premiere. Oistrakh had played it on three occasions in Russia. It was rehearsed by him and Kondrashin and then given two pre-premieres in September 1967 before the official premiere on 26 October. This London performance followed on 19 November. It was apparently arranged at short notice and fitted into the touring Ormandy’s existing schedule with the LSO.

It was also an LSO Trust gala, which explains the sparkily brief Bliss Fanfare. The BBC engineers coped well with the RFH acoustic. The balance between soloist and orchestra and the important role of principal horn (Barry Tuckwell) have all been well and justly delineated. The performance itself demonstrates once again, even in this sombre musical context, Oistrakh’s matchless legato and breadth of tone and phrasing. The vestiges of the first movement Chassidic dance are taken up by soloist and orchestra adeptly, marshalled by the ex-violinist and excellent accompanist Ormandy. There’s powerfully wrought expression throughout, the ‘bass up’ sonorities of the slow movement being especially notable. Those drivingly caustic exchanges in the finale and the dramatically etched cadenza are similar examples of knife-edge excellence. Oistrakh collectors will know of the live 1968 Rozhdestvensky-led performance he gave, once released on Melodiya C10-17502 - obviously not the same performance as the 1968 Svetlanov live recording that came out on Intaglio CD, nor yet 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. Whichever you choose - and the 1968 Rozhdestvensky is now available in an Oistrakh Brilliant box - you can be assured that the frisson of the BBC performance is second to none. 
The Tchaikovsky came five years later and was taped at the Royal Albert Hall, this time with the LPO and Maxim Shostakovich. Warmly and broadly conceived this fits into the accepted parameters of an Oistrakh rendition. There are no great surprises. The tone is ripe and rich, the ensemble secure, even though there are one or two very slight moments of untidiness, and though I did feel the conductor at points retarding momentum very slightly. Oistrakh leaps into the cadenza with muscularity and dynamism, and plays the slow movement with beautifully textured lightness. He characterises the finale with all his old assurance, those dance elements really registering, the line never coming under pressure - the woozy and whistling moments (Sarasate derived, I always think) full of saucy conviction.

There is a plethora of Oistrakh performances of this work from which to choose, if you can, or need to. There was Gauk, Kondrashin (twice) and Samosud - that last one with the Bolshoi on Vox, Murray Hill and Joker. Kempe 1959 preceded the famous Ormandy of 1960, though you will have come across the Konwitschny/Saxon in a cheapo box - maybe the Heliodor. There’s also the Brilliant box set that contains the 27 September 1968 Rozhdestvensky-directed broadcast.

Tough choices ahead then. There’s the cachet of the Western premiere of the Shostakovich - if the frisson of such things appeals to you - and a very good, though not in truth outstanding Tchaikovsky.

Jonathan Woolf