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David Oistrakh Collection Volume 6
Pyotr Ilyich TCHIAKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Piano Trio in A Op.50 (1881-82) [46.12]
Méditation for violin and piano Op.43 No.1 [9.24]
Waltz-Scherzo for violin and piano Op.34 [5.20]
Sérénade Mélancolique for violin and orchestra Op.26 [10.00]
David Oistrakh (violin) with
Sviatoslav Knushevitzky (cello) and Lev Oborin (piano) in the Trio, recorded March 1948
Vladimir Yampolsky (piano) in the Méditation and Waltz-Scherzo, recorded 1948
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Kyrill Kondrashin, recorded 1945
David Oistrakh Collection Volume 6
DOREMI DHR 7742 [70.03]


The Oistrakh Trio’s recordings are an important part of the violinist’s discographic legacy and it’s good to see Doremi picking up on the Tchaikovsky, a work I don’t believe Preiser has (yet) included in their first-class trawl through the Melodiya back catalogue of this august ensemble. Otherwise the trio and quartet recordings of the late 1940s and early 1950s remain under-appreciated even by admirers of the violinist, an impression only increased by the greater celebrity and relative ubiquity of the recordings of that other stellar post-War Soviet ensemble, the Gilels-Kogan-Rostropovich trio. Indeed this 1948 Oistrakh traversal of the Tchaikovsky trio was pretty comprehensively eclipsed by the later recording by their friendly rivals – a performance, it has to be said, of astonishing power and conviction.

Still, this earlier reading has more than its share of moments. Tempi are fluid and forward moving and tempo relationships, not least in the variations of the second movement, are splendidly controlled. Timbral matters are assured, the two string players blending and shading their tones and there’s plenty of warmth, both in ensemble and individually. Oistrakh frequently floats his tone with marvellous affection, the less effusive Knushevitzky shadowing and answering with great sensitively. Oborin plays with accustomed assurance - and the most judicious balancing of chords into the bargain. The climax of the first movement is graded with great perception and the variations of the second are characterised with colour and feeling – note the drone passages, the sturdy fugato and the passionate approach to the funeral march.

All this is worthy of the highest commendation. The recorded quality however is rather dampened down and airless. Certainly these are rather difficult 78s from which to work but it seems to me that the battle between conservation of treble airiness and reduced surface noise has been tilted rather decisively toward the latter. As such there are moments when you will wonder how much you’re missing from the originals; I think rather too much.

There are some weighty bonuses from around the same time. The Méditation is charismatic and superbly done; bewitching slides, some in daringly rapid succession, and very evocative - in slightly more open sound as well. We also have the Waltz –Scherzo which features brilliantly light bowing and electric trills as well as much obvious warmth, and to finish, with Kondrashin, the Sérénade Mélancolique. This is the earliest of the recordings, from 1945, and rather dim sounding though as was almost invariable with Russian discs of the time the violin is boldly spotlit at the expense of some orchestral detail. Despite that it’s again rather over-filtered for my taste.

This is the sixth in Doremi’s continuing Oistrakh edition. I can certainly recommend that interested readers acquaint themselves with the Trio performance and enjoy, if they can and budgets stretch that far, systematic comparison with the Kogan-led performance. Some worries about the filtering, few about the performances.

Jonathan Woolf




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