Classical Reissue Reviews

David Oistrakh Collection, Vol. 14: Live Performances in Stockholm – Works of BACH, BRAHMS, HAYDN, PROKOFIEV, MOZART, STENHAMMER, AULIN – Doremi (2 CDs)

The great Russian violinist appears in Sweden, where he proffers us two new items for his immense discography by Stenhammar and Aulin.

Published on June 2, 2014

David Oistrakh Collection, Vol. 14:  Live Performances in Stockholm – Works of BACH, BRAHMS, HAYDN, PROKOFIEV, MOZART, STENHAMMER, AULIN – Doremi (2 CDs)

David Oistrakh Collection, Vol. 14:  Live Performances in Stockholm = BACH: Concerto in C Minor for Violin and Oboe, BWV 1060; HAYDN: Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat Major, Op. 84; BRAHMS: Double Concerto in A Minor, Op. 102; PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19; MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216; STENHAMMER: Sonata in A Minor, Op. 19; AULIN: Berceuse from Four Aquarelles – David Oistrakh, violin and cond./ Torleif Loennerholm, oboe/ Frans Helmersson, cello/ Tore Roennebaeck, bassoon/ Ake Olofsson, cello (Brahms Op. 102)/ Greta Erikson, piano/ Swedish Radio Sym./ Stig Westerberg (Prokofiev) – Doremi DHR-8020/1 (2 CDs) 64:00, 78:17 [Distr. by Allegro] *****:

The illustrious violin virtuoso David Oistrakh (1908-1974) grants us diverse musical pleasures from his association with Swedish musicians, 1970-1974, in which he appears in various guises in chamber ensembles: as soloist, and as conductor in one staple, Mozart’s G Major Concerto.  For the large symphonic works, Oistrakh has the benefit of conductor Stig Westerberg (1919-1999), who led the Swedish Radio Orchestra from 1958-1983.

The Doremi collection opens with suavely stylistic Bach Concerto for Violin and Oboe (6 September 1970) in which each principal indulges in minimal vibrato to effect a deftly effective and transparent reading of this beguiling duet, especially in the Adagio, which oft resembles two seaweeds in amorous embrace. The sound fidelity remains excellent throughout, well capturing the warm interplay between two master instrumentalists and a sympathetic Baroque ensemble. The charming bustle in polyphony of the last movement Allegro exhibits a vigor and musical bite thoroughly compelling without self-aggrandizement.

Haydn’s 1792 Sinfonia Concertante was meant as a display piece to rival similar works by Pleyel. The first movement presents a leisurely Allegro in which the four soloists stand out from the orchestra in beguiling relief until, in their multiple cadenza, they break free entirely. The bassoon part from Tore Roennebaeck proves superb, enough to convince a young auditor to take up the instrument. The Andante features an exquisite oboe part as part of a serenade in Haydn’s most tender vein, reminiscent of his various nocturnes for the King of Naples. As for the racy finale, it begins with a musical joke – involving a sudden reduction in speed and the imitation of an operatic recitative on the solo violin – to match any in the London symphonies themselves. Westerberg (rec. 1971) quite steals the show, balancing his forces so cannily that Oistrakh and his fellow quartet (concertino) members virtually shine in vibrant, gorgeous competition with the ripieno large ensemble.

When Oistrakh leads the 1973 performance of the Mozart G Major Concerto and serves as soloist, the musical results sparkle with especial brio and alertness. The buoyancy and joie de vivre  expressed by the collaborators – for instance, the fine response between Oistrakh and his oboe – prove completely infectious, much as the nineteen-year-old virtuoso compose could have wished. For sheer bravura, Oistrakh’s first movement cadenza sizzles. A sweet Italianate lyricism urges the Adagio along, the muted strings in support of Oistrakh’s seamless cantilena. The feisty Rondo in triple meter first has Oistrakh and ensemble whirling; then, after a sudden halt, and they engage in a mock-courtly dance that soon discards its formality. After the exhibition of Oistrakh’s technical and affective gifts, the music closes quietly but the Swedish audience erupts into unbuttoned appreciation. Disc 1 concludes with reading of a Berceuse (rec. 8 September 1971) by Tor Aulin (1866-1914), founder of Sweden’s leading chamber ensemble, the Aulin Quartet. Oistrakh and pianist Greta Erikson combine in making this alluring music a delicacy to be enjoyed many times.

Disc 2 proffers two major works in which Oistrakh and conductor Stig Westerberg inspire each other: the Brahms Double Concerto (9 September 1971) with cellist Ake Olofsson (b. 1924) fervently supplements the performances we have with Oistrakh and Fournier and Rostropovich. While briskly paced, the Brahms maintains its intimacy as well as dramatic girth, and the magnificent Andante reminds us it served as a conciliatory love-letter from Brahms to Joachim. The 1917 Prokofiev D Major Violin Concerto has always held a special place in Oistrakh’s affections, and this 1974 performance – among the great violinist’s last recorded documents – and he and Westerberg address the music’s angular yet Classical lyricism with polished fervor. The interplay of Oistrakh, strings, and harp in the first movement injects the music with energy mitigated by the required sognando, dreamy effect. Another fine exponent of this concerto, Joseph Szigeti, often admired the music’s combination of fairy-tale naivete and rustic savagery, a mix find in the whirling Scherzo, here played slightly more marcato than usual in Oistrakh. The cyclic third movement – which the bassoon announces as a kind of grandfather narrative – combines diaphanous textures with the opening theme of the Concerto, now executed as a chain of trills by Oistrakh. The grand leisure that Oistrakh and Westerberg strike up for this hazy dream vividly accentuates its haunted beauties.

Oistrakh’s Swedish collaborations conclude with the A Minor Violin Sonata (1900) by Wilhelm Stenhammar.  This performance with Greta Erikson (8 September 1971) reveals the composer’s debts to Brahms and Schumann, perhaps touched by a lyrical, folk spirit we could attribute to Grieg. The first movement Allegro con anima offers some step-wise, occasionally powerful chords for the keyboard, but for the most part the piano echoes and supports the ardent violin line. The heart of the piece, Andantino, builds on small melodic cells into a lovely song without words.  The brisk Allegro last movement utilizes a syncopated dance motif quite in character with Dvorak or Grieg.  The developmental style is all Brahms, almost a schoolbook transfer of that master’s procedures.  Still, we have a thoroughly charming work, this sonata; and if anyone could sell its virtues for a first hearing, it would be David Oistrakh.

Heartily recommended and an easy choice for Best of the Year lists.

—Gary Lemco




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