Duets for Violin and Piano = SCHUBERT: Violin Sonata in A Major, D. 574; Fantasie in C Major, D. 934; BRAHMS: Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78 – David Oistrakh, violin/ Frida Bauer, p. – Melodiya MEL CD 10 02147, 72:00 [Distr. by Naxos] [5/27/14] ****:
Recorded 1970-1972, these Schubert and Brahms staples from the great Russian violinist David Oistrakh (1908-1984) find him in excellent form and captured in fine sound, especially from Melodiya. These performances did appear on LP through the Philips label. His accompanist Frida Bauer served as the rehearsal pianist and accompanist for the Moscow State Philharmonic Society.
The 1817 Schubert A Major “Duo” Sonata receives a loving, tenderly-etched reading which benefits at every turn from Oistrakh’s rich violin tone. The balance with the keyboard seems ideal, since both instruments contribute in songlike harmony throughout, with seamless transitions. Listen to the stunning, galvanized attacks in the E Major Scherzo, piercing and emotionally ripe. The Trio section in C Major conveys poised elegance. The Andantino in C reflects a Viennese charm, a kind of laendler that wants to become a passionate lullaby. The Oistrakh energy vents itself in voluptuous force in the Allegro vivace in A, a luxurious tone that can purr as well as it can sting. The often cantering gait of the movement moves with intimate assurance and charming dignity.
Schubert’s 1827 Fantasie in C Major offers another kind of elegance, here on an epic scale. Its combination of through-composed, one movement form that subdivides into four unified sections set the example – as had the Wanderer Fantasy for piano – for both Liszt and Schoenberg. Schubert employs his own song Sei mir gegrusst (I hail to thee) as the basis for a series of variations in A-flat Major in the course of an otherwise free fantasia that takes a “Hungarian” turn in A Minor. Oistrakh and an “electric” Bauer negotiate the various, improvisatory moods and tempo changes – there a six major tempo indications – with assured bravura, given the work’s intent to display the talents of its first performers Josef Slavik and Karl Bocklet. The boisterous Allegretto moves through its syncopations with a taut precision that quite mesmerizes. The woven tapestry of the Andantino based on the lied defines Oistrakh’s gifts as a soloist and chamber music master. The “watery” imagery from the keyboard reappears to take us to the mighty C Major Allegretto and Presto coda that light up our ears and musical fancies.
Frankly, despite the sheer magical beauty of Oistrakh’s performance of the Brahms 1878 “Regenlied” Sonata in G Major, I find the programming a bit anti-climactic after the effusive Schubert. I would have preferred a blazing rendition of the Beethoven Kreutzer Sonata here. But if I must settle for “mere” restrained and passionate beauty at every measure, so be it. The acoustical resonance of the recital hall for this 1972 Brahms sonata proves quite resonant, the microphone placement up close and personal, so as to capture the occasional intake of breath. Among the most nostalgic of the Brahms violin sonatas, the work bears the imprimatur of Robert Schumann, whose son Felix had died and so lent an air of valedictory sadness to the Adagio movement. It might be a worthwhile footnote to add that the German pianist Walter Gieseking had been suitably impressed with Oistrakh and had planned on recording all three of the Brahms sonatas with him for EMI, but Gieseking’s death in 1956 intervened. More kudos to Fridaa Bauer on her exemplary work in the sonata to complement an already glowing violin line with her exquisite figures in the most gracious and beautiful of the Brahms violin sonatas. She and Oistrakh are perfect together.