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alternatively Crotchet

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in D major Op.12 No.1 (1798) [21:20]
Violin Sonata No. 3 in E flat major Op.12 No.3 (1798) [18:32]
Violin Sonata No. 10 in G Op. 96 (1812) [27:14]
David Oistrakh (violin), Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
rec. Moscow, 6 May 1970
DOREMI DHR7800 [67:14]

Oistrakh and Richter performed together as a duo for the first time in 1967. Their relatively late association was cemented by recordings of Brahms and Franck, ones that attest to their mutual understanding even given that Richter often performed with Kagan. Oistrakh’s sonata partner was Oborin and another frequent associate Yampolsky.
This is the tenth in Doremi’s series devoted to the violinist and is devoted to a recital given by the two musicians in Moscow in May 1970. For the record Oistrakh had recorded the Op.21 No.1 sonata with both pianist colleagues named above in 1954 and 1962; there’s a live 1962 Oborin as well. Op.12 No.3 fared equally well; Yampolsky in 1955 and Oborin in 1962 with another live performance in the same year. Oddly there is only the 1962 Oborin of Op.96 and a live recording, invariably with the same pianist from the same year. So of course we are in a sense spoiled for choice with more and more live performances becoming available all the time – hence there may need to be some adjustment to the above in the light of recent caches of material. 
The sound quality in the 1970 recital was rather tubby with Oistrakh too far from the microphone. The frustrating balance is a feature of the recital as a whole and not even Oistrakh’s big tone can compensate for the loss of optimum balance between himself and Richter. Oistrakh tended to take a deliberate tempo for Op.96, though it sounds to me – maybe a quirk of the balance inequality – that Richter tends to lead. The violinist opens up his tonal reserves in the slow movement though he’s too often covered by Richter, another product one assumes of the balance question. The mien is generally patrician and reserved. But the highlight for me was the puckish, agile and witty Scherzo, a real feast of interplay and alertness.
Oistrakh’s grazioso muscularity is heard to its full in the opening movement of the D major and there’s real fire and personality in the second movement variations – some superbly stentorian playing from both men here.  Oddly enough the opening of the D major sounds a touch more hissy than its companion sonatas and the sound a bit more open. In any case the performance has equal strengths. It’s vibrant and dynamic.
Given the state of the discography one would point readers to the commercial set of the sonatas with Oborin. This one has some piano-centred imbalance that skews ensemble. But without doubt as a formidable meeting of colleagues it has specialist appeal.
Jonathan Woolf


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