David Oistrach = BRAHMS: Violin Concerto; BACH: Concerto for 2 Violins; CHAUSSON: Poeme – David Oistrach, violin/ Igor Oistrach, violin/ Fritz Rieger, Franz Konwitschny, Kiril Kondrashin conduct – Archipel

by | Dec 21, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews

David Oistrach = BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77; BACH: Concerto in D Minor for 2 Violins, BWV 1043; CHAUSSON: Poeme, Op. 25 – David Oistrach, violin/ Igor Oistrach, violin/ Munich Philharmonic/ Fritz Rieger/ Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig/ Franz Konwitschny (Bach)/ State Symphony Orchestra, USSR/ Kiril Kondrashin (Chausson) – Archipel ARPCD 0476, 71:50 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
David Oistrach (1908-1974) remains among the premier violinists of the last century, his warmly expressive tone and energetic approach to diverse styles of music internationally infectious. Archipel assembles an eclectic mix of Oistrach staples, 1948-1957, that displays his prowess in German and Belgian repertory, working with two of his favorite conductors of note, Franz Konwitschny and Kirill Kondrashin. Fritz Rieger, an ex-Nazi Party member, had replaced Hans Rosbaud at the helm of the Munich Philharmonic from 1949-1966, given Rieger’s more conservative musical tastes when contrasted with Rosbaud’s penchant for contemporary composition.
The live Brahms Concerto (26 April 1955) from Munich enjoys fair to good sound, especially in the woodwinds and tympani section, which play with energetic focus. Occasionally, the sound becomes grainy, perhaps from tape deterioration or static transmission. The acoustic of the Deutsches Museum, Munich appears spacious but dry. Oistrach enters explosively, pushing the tempo over the oboe and muted strings and rising to its pre-destined statement in the tonic. The natural familiarity of Oistrach with the lyrico-dramatic content of the concerto sells the performance, his utter naturalness of phrase lengths and the facility of execution, given the rapid pace of the Allegro non troppo. Lacking the grand architecture of his collaboration in France with Otto Klemperer for EMI, the performance carries us forward ineluctably to the Kreisler cadenza, a raspy affair that favors bravura over innate sweetness. The transition to the coda, though, combines elegance and heroic verve.
The microphone placement seems quite close to the oboe entry and its own woodwind support for the Adagio. The French horn comes in smoothly, and over soft chords, Oistrach and the accompanying flute and horn. The entire atmosphere relaxes, and Oistrach’s burnished tone adds infinite degrees of suave charm to the songs he intones. Once the momentum finds its right tempo, the Adagio takes on an aural savvy of its own, stylistically and emotionally irresistible. The gypsy Rondo is all muscle and razor-sharp flair, the gloves off. Rather exciting, really, the fierce tempo and volcanic drive of all principals. The Munich tympani player earns his pay, certainly. The uncompromising tension sweeps us to the extended, martial coda, and the rapt audience has its opportunity to emote.
Oistrach often collaborated with conductor Franz Konwitschny (1901-1962), said by critics of the time to be “in sovereign control” of his Leipzig orchestra. David and son Igor (b. 1931) worked with Konwitschny individually and as a duo, having recorded Sarasate’s Navarre with these same forces. The joyous partnership in the well-familiar figures of the Bach Double Concerto (rec. 1957) prove all the more resonant given the cleanliness of the recording, after the Brahms. The music of the opening Vivace passes all too quickly, but we can savor an extended, blissful moment in the Largo ma non tanto.
No pause, and we plummet into the fires of the concluding Allegro, the violins arched and pliant, the continuo (with harpsichord) effortlessly along, a velvet glove. Stylistically and sonically alert, the performance provides a fine gem in the Oistrach legacy.
Another of Oistrach’s conducting mentors was Kirill Kondrashin (1914-1981), like Oistrach a late émigré from the USSR to a safer, more artistically appreciative West, namely Amsterdam. Their performance of the Chausson Poeme (15 March 1948) bears testimony to relatively young artists from the ones we know from EMI, RCA, and Tahra labels. Chausson’s elegiac work, based on his reading of a tale of frustrated love by Turgenev, enters an emotional hothouse, furioso e doloroso. In several respects, the Oistrach performance resembles that by Heifetz, in its driven unified approach, an unbroken line of eerie lyricism as a testament to the ephemeral ardor of passion.
Archipel designates this disc for its “Desert Island Collection,” but the grittiness in the Brahms broadcast suggests that some sand blew in from the island.
—Gary Lemco

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