Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61 [47:59]
Josef HAYDN (1732-1809)
Concerto No. 6 in F major for violin and piano, Hob. XVIII [20:37]
Igor Oistrakh (violin)
Natalia Zertsalova (piano)
Moscow State Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra/Valentin Zhuk (Elgar)
Ensemble of the Soloists of Moscow State Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra/Valentin Zhuk
rec. Moscow, 1984 (Elgar); 1985 (Haydn)
MELODIYA MELCD1002384 [68:00]

There’s no doubt that Igor Oistrakh has lived in the shadow of his more famous father. Both performed and recorded duo repertory together, but Oistrakh the younger has forged a distinguished career path of his own in a broad array of music ranging from Bach to Khrennikov. Like his father before him he has made forays into viola playing and conducting, and has gained an acclaim as a teacher. His discography does not equal that of his father, only about a third of the size. The Elgar Concerto was never recorded by David Oistrakh, though I’ve read that he played it, as well as the Walton, in concert in Russia. Igor is now eighty-five and I assume he has retired from concertizing. The dynasty now lives on with his son Valery.

There are some striking similarities between David and Igor. Both utilize a vibrato which invests their playing with a rich, full-bodied and rounded tone, with expressive slides and position changes being another common denominator. In the Elgar Concerto, the first movement is expansive and spacious and Valentin Zhuk seizes the moment from the start with a noble and dignified opening tutti. He has a natural feel for the music, instinctively contouring the ebb and flow of this lushly romantic score. Oistrakh likewise delivers an idiomatic and virile performance. I love the way he phrases the beautiful second subject Windflower theme with soaring eloquence. The slow movement is seductively lyrical and is never cloying, and the tempo seems just right. The finale is technically accomplished, confident and assured. Zhuk accompanies the cadenza with sensitivity and care.

With the Haydn Concerto listeners are in for a treat. The opening Allegro moderato has plenty of fire in its belly, both soloists delighting in the work’s high-spirited ebullience and effusive vitality. In the lyrical Largo the players match each other phrase for phrase, neither stealing the limelight. The exuberant finale draws on an abundance of Haydnesque wit and humour, rendered with copious bounce and vitality. Particularly successful is the recorded balance achieved between the two soloists and orchestra.

The recordings here date from the mid-eighties, and I’ve been familiar with the Elgar for some time. It has previously been released on the now defunct Olympia label (OCD 242), coupled with the Britten Concerto played by Boris Gutnikov. For potential purchasers, the couplings will be a deciding factor. For me, Gutnikov’s Britten is a more desirable proposition if you can get hold of it on the second-hand market.

Stephen Greenbank

Idiomatic Elgar and high-spirited Haydn.

Previous review: Rob Barnett