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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-97)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77 (1878) [40’46].
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 (1888) [23’59].
David Oistrakh (violin)
Cleveland Orchestra/Georg Szell (Concerto)
Vladimir Yampolsky (piano) (Sonata).
Rec. Severance Hall, Cleveland, Ohio, on May 13th and 16th, 1969 (Concerto) and May 19th, 1955 (Sonata) ADD stereo (Concerto)
Great Recordings Of The Century
EMI CLASSICS 5 67973-2 [65’05].


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The Brahms Violin Concerto was a great favourite with David Oistrakh. This is his last recording of the work (there are a total of four), and the marriage of Oistrakh and Szell and his Clevelanders is magic. Szell was well known for his telepathic abilities as accompanist, but this is but one facet of this recording. The opening orchestral arpeggiation is given with such supreme confidence that one knows that one is in expert hands, and indeed the superb exposition is matched by intense playing from Oistrakh. Perhaps the best point to illustrate the way in which the two men understand each other is at the close of the cadenza, where the music melts back into the rejoining orchestra.

The oboe solo in the Adagio is heart-melting, and Oistrakh hardly less so. He almost sounds as if he is improvising, such is the way he threads his lines. Only in the finale are there the slightest of doubts. The movement is strong and robust from both soloist and orchestra, and at the chosen speed Oistrakh generates a tremendous cumulative energy. Szell does not quite match him, however, the orchestra straining just that little bit at the leash. However, this remains a great recording of the Brahms, containing a multitude of insights.

The recording of the Third Sonata is, however, Oistrakh’s only one and because it was recorded on tour, his accompanist was Vladimir Yampolsky rather than Oborin. Yampolsky worked with Oistrakh from 1946 until 1961. Interesting to compare this with the Perlman/Ashkenazy complete Brahms Sonatas in this same series of Great Recordings of the Century review. Despite a somewhat recessed piano, the first movement comes across as warm and flowing (without Perlman’s dip in concentration), the third suave and the finale rather hard-driven (there is no doubting the nimbleness of the pianist here). The slow movement includes some good old-fashioned portamenti, but above all it is a profoundly emotional meditation (Oistrakh’s beautiful stopping is particularly noteworthy). Comparison between Perlman/Ashkenazy and Oistrakh/Yampolsky is instructive, but in the end it is the latter that get closest to the Brahmsian world.

Strongly recommended.

Colin Clarke

see also review by Rob Barnett

Great Recordings of the Century

 



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