Impérial Oistrakh!
David Oistrakh (violin, viola)
rec. 1953-1972, mono/stereo. ADD
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 614443 [3 CDs: 79:28 + 78:40 + 77:36]

At first glance, this bargain 3CD compilation from Warner France looks very attractive. It offer one CD dedicated to David Oistrakh’s recordings of each of three major composers, plus bonuses from five others.

Closer inspection, however, reveals that Warner has yielded to the “bleeding chunks” approach. There are in fact only three complete violin concertos here, from Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms, plus one other brief but complete work: Wieniawski’s concert piece, “Légende”. Otherwise we have the kind of random compilation that no serious collector desires. It is frustrating, for example, to be given only the Allegro of the famous recording of the Brahms’ Double Concerto with Pierre Fournier, or just two of the three movements of Mozart’s “Sinfonia concertante” with David’s son Igor taking the lead and Papa playing second fiddle, as it were, on the viola. These works demand to be heard in toto, especially as they are taken from vintage recordings already widely known and celebrated.

Speaking of “vintage”, it is also not ideal that five of the ten of recordings here made in the 1950s are pre-1956 and thus in mono. This was presumably the result of Walter Legge’s resistance at EMI to the 'new-fangled' stereo technology. Not that the listings tell you which are stereo and which are mono but that becomes apparent to the listener’s ears. There are otherwise recordings made in good analogue stereo between 1969 and 1972, shortly before Oistrakh’s rather early death in 1974 at sixty-six years old. The excellent Beethoven Violin Concerto with Cluytens is in elderly, narrow stereo and obviously nothing here has been newly re-mastered. That said, the 1969 version of Brahms’ Violin Concerto conducted by Szell is sonically superior to Oistrakh’s earlier account with Klemperer, being more defined and brilliant than the 1960 recording. Furthermore, for some reason the excerpt from the classic Triple Concerto recording – again, just one movement – sounds considerably more natural and a good deal less hissy in the 1990 re-mastering on my old EMI Laser issue than it does here. The Mozart has not been re-mastered since the 1980s but still sounds rather good – if only we could have had more of nos. 3 and 5 …

Presentation is minimalist: no notes, just listings and a few photographs. I think it a pity, too that none of Oistrakh’s Bach is here, as I especially admire his work in that composer.

If this all sounds ungrateful, I am sorry, but this strikes me as a fairly cynical, cobbled-together anthology. The price is right but that is of little consequence given the lack of re-mastering, the low production values and the random selection of disjointed extracts.

True, Oistrakh’s mastery in eight composers is amply illustrated and we may hear the singing, soaring heights and the warm, bronze depth of his tone, the seamless legato and sheer musicality of his phrasing, but I maintain that one of the three or four pre-eminent violinists of his generation deserves a better memorial, while any newcomer to his art deserves at least to hear his supremacy in complete works.
Ralph Moore

CD 1:
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Triple Concerto in C major for piano, violin and cello, op.56
III Rondo alla polacca
Violin Concerto in D major, op.61
Violin Sonata no.9 in A major, op.47 'Kreutzer'
II Andante con variazioni
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Trio no.1 in B flat major, op.99 D898
IV Rondo: Allegro vivace - Presto
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Violin Concerto no.1 in G minor, op.26
III Finale (Allegro energico)

CD 2:
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto no.4 in D major, K218
Violin Concerto no.3 in G major, K216
I Allegro
Violin Concerto no.5 in A major, K219 'Turkish'
II Adagio
Sinfonia concertante
I Allegro maestoso
II Andante
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Legende in G minor, op.17

CD 3:
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D major, op.77
Violin Sonata no.3 in D minor, op.108
III Un poco presto e con sentimento
III Finale: Allegro energico
Double Concerto for violin and cello in A minor, op.102
I Allegro
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Violin Sonata in A major
I Allegretto ben moderato
IV Allegretto poco mosso
Edouard LALO (1823-1892)
Symphonie Espagnole in D minor, op.21
II Scherzando: Allegro molto
David Oistrakh (violin, viola)
Lev Oborin (piano), Sviatoslav Knushevitsky (cello), Igor Oistrakh (violin), Vladimir Yampolsky (piano), Pierre Fournier (cello), Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française/André Cluytens; Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent; London Symphony Orchestra/Lovro von Matačić; Berliner Philharmoniker/Oistrakh; Cleveland Orchestra/George Szell
CD 1:
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D minor op. 61: 8 and 10 November 1958, Salle Wagram Paris.
Violin Sonata Number 9 A Kreutzer in A op. 47: 1953 Paris.
Triple Concerto for violin cello & piano in C op. 56: 10 May 1958; Trio for piano violin and cello Number 1 in B flat D89: 13-16 May 1958; Concerto for Violin and Orchestra Number 1 in G minor op. 26: 17-18 November 1954, Abbey Road Studio Number 1 London.
CD 2:
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra Nos 4 in D K218 and 5 in A 219: November 1970;
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra Number 3 in G K216: 22-23 March 1971;
Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Cello in E flat K364: March 1972, Zehlendorfer Gemeindehaus Berlin.
Légende op. 17: 18 February 1956, Abbey Road Studio Number 1, London.
CD 3:
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D op. : 13 16 May 1969, Severance Hall Cleveland.
Violin Sonata Number 3 in D minor op. 108: 20 May 1955, Salle Coloniale Bruxelles.
Double Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor op. 102: 29 February and 2-3 March 1956, Kingsway Hall London.
Violin Sonata in A: 8 June 1954, Stockholm.
Symphony espagnole: 13-14 November 1954, Abbey Road Studio Number 1, London.
mono/stereo ADD

Support us financially by purchasing this from