Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Violin Concerto (1938)

Violin Concerto (1940)

Dance in B flat (Oistrakh/Abram Makarov)
David Oistrakh (violin)
USSR State SO/Aleander Gauk (both concertos)
PEARL GEMM CD 9295 [75.53]
Amazon US

Has anyone matched Oistrakh's mesh of tragic beauty and sickle-edged technique? Heifetz too often speaks the language of the pristine technician but the heart beats rather than thriobs (there are exceptions: Elgar/Sargent and Walton - second version). Kogan approaches Oistrakh's artistry though his glowering Revelation recording of the Khachaturyan is no longer available.

Little needs to be said about the Khachaturyan concerto. It is easy to like and that is no criticism. It is an exciting lyrical work with a Hollywood veneer, a touch of oriental magic and a swooping flightpath. Here Oistrakh lends it dignity as well as passion. An easy winner in anyone's books. If you do not know it think of a blend of Tchaikovsky, Borodin and with Eastern allure. A cut or ten above the eagerly generous Korngold concerto. You need to hear this work. If you must have stereo then the BMG-Melodiya Khachaturyan twofer (Oistakh again) is well worth your attention. For those with bullet-proof ears there is the Kaufman on Citadel.

The little dance (Op. 1) has a Hispanic snap and is not far remote, in mood, from Saint-Saens' Havanaise (another Kogan triumph on Philips)

Still more intriguing is the epic Miaskovsky concerto. Actually it is not all that long - only 36.42. It is a subtler work than the Khachaturyan delving deeper into the poetry and Slav soorrow. The first movement strikes a firm-chinned unapologetic note with a solo part of slender beauty as if Oistrakh embraces this lovable music. That nostalgic elegiac air which hangs heavily over the cello concerto is here also but offset by fantasy and dalliance reiminscent of the Prokofiev first violin concerto (the latter best heard in Szigeti's HMV recording and in Sitkovetsky's on Virgin). The excoriating and diving strings announced at the start of the finale are straight out of Elgar's Introduction and Allegro. if there were any justice this concerto would have had multiple recordings by the great, the good and the media-feted but no such fate ... as yet. The Miaskovsky is not currently otherwise available although you may be able to find Grigori Feigin's excellent Olympia CD (stereo Russian performance from the 1970s) if you look hard.

The rising generation of young violinists would do well to couple the Miaskovsky with Janis Ivanovs' concerto. How to make a hit with two rare and bright-eyed concertos combining subtlety with poetry.

Pearl's recorded sound is excellent given the vintage: sixty years old from recordings taken down onto 35 mm film. The Miaskovsky is excellent, mono of course: vivid and cleanly detailed.

This is another of  my recommended discs of the month. A treasure for playing rather than shelf pride.

If you want to explore beyond the Tchaikovsky and Elgar concertos this is for you

Rob Barnett.

Reviews from previous months

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