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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, BWV1041 [15:23]
Violin Concerto No. 2 in E major, BWV1042 [19:21]
Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV1043 [16:52]
Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G major, BWV1049 [17:52]
David Oistrakh (violin)
Igor Oistrakh (violin: double)
Vienna Philharmonic (members)/David Oistrakh (1, 2)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Eugene Goossens (double)
Moscow Chamber Orchestra/Rudolf Barshai (Brandenburg)
Georg Fischer (1); George Malcolm (2) (harpsichord); Alexander Korneyev; Naum Zeidel (flute - Brandenburg)
rec. Moscow, 1957 (Brandenburg); DGG, 1962 (Concertos)
ALTO ALC1399 [68:51]

These are, as the label says, "Legendary Recordings". They seem to have been in my consciousness for as long as I have been drawn into the classical music world as a listener ... and that was about ten years after they had been recorded.

Nowadays, despite their long-held elite status they speak of a voluptuously romanticised approach. Their voice, in a cooler world that has elevated 18th century authenticity and historically informed performance practice, looks forward to Brahms and Beethoven. Listen, for example, to the irresistible hyper-romantic middle movements of BWV1042 and BWV1043. The orchestra assumes a "full fat" role and is not merely big but also lavish.

The slow movement of BWV1041 is a delight and its finale looks forward to Mozart's K364 Sinfonia Concertante. The rush of adrenaline in Oistrakh's BWV1042 brooks no denial and so it continues. There is nothing bloodless about this music-making.

The only deficit lies with the hint of harshness to the treble edge, especially at fortissimo, and the suggestion of mechanical regularity in the finale of BWV1042.

The Double Violin Concerto has the Oistrakhs at full stretch technically and artistically. The recording is also an example of Goossens at his inspired and inspiring best even in old age. He had left Sydney five years previously under a louring cloud but in this Bach he played out his heart with the RPO and the two lavishly gifted Oistrakhs - an elite gathering. Interestingly, the recording here is slightly more distant and not as treble-vulcanised in this Concerto for Two Violins in D minor as that accorded to the two solo concertos.

All three of the DGG recordings continue to assert an uncontentiously honoured place in the DG catalogue in the form of an Originals disc and in various DG-Universal boxed sets.

The playing time of the disc is, to advantage, supplemented by a Moscow/Barshai Brandenburg No. 4, BWV1049. The players of the graciously breathy flutter-tongued flutes are identified. It's a very atmospheric acoustic. Aside from some rigidity and congestion from the orchestral sound the effect is lively and well attuned to Bach's sprightly writing to which the musicians pay delightful court. If you are looking for more of the same then it looks as if you should go to Melodiya.

The three-sheet fold-out liner essay has been newly provided by Peter Avis and is well worth a read. Alto have done well here in every respect.

Rob Barnett



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