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The Famous Oistrakh Trio
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Trio No. 2 in E flat major D929
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Trio in G minor Op.8
David Oistrakh (violin)
Sviatoslav Knushevitzky (cello)
Lev Oborin (piano)
No recording details
PREISER RECORDS 90597 [68.28]


Preiser is known overwhelmingly for its series of vocal reissues but here we have something different. They’ve recently issued a series of recordings that have returned to the catalogues the Oistrakh Trio discs of the late 1940s. Many of these have not seen the light of day for a number of years and even some initiates will be unfamiliar with this facet of Oistrakh’s career. The Oistrakh-Knushevitzky-Oborin trio was rivalled in Russia only by the Kogan-Rostropovich-Gilels group, one which gained greater currency in international discographies. Still, the older trio did do some fine excavation work, unearthing works by Rimsky Korsakov and, as here, the Chopin as well as more standard fare, seeing service in the West on such labels as Colosseum, Westminster and Monitor.

None of the discs are dated here but I suspect they derive from Moscow sessions made in 1947 or thereabouts. Nothing much can be done about the acoustic in D929 – I hope Preiser will be releasing D898 as well in its reissue programme – which was always very boxy and constricted. The performance is splendidly balanced and bold with an equal distribution of tenderness and declamation. Lyric tension is sustained throughout and Knushevitzky’s solo to open the slow movement has all the requisite warmth one could desire. Their Scherzo is particularly martial and the finale robust and characterised by homogenous tonal blend between the two string players. This is strongly delineated playing, highly characterful and with no beautifying tendencies. The Chopin makes, except for matters of chronology perhaps, something of a strange disc-mate – but then it would whatever the repertoire. Maligned though it may be, this is a convincing traversal. Oborin proves expert in the sweetness and alternating angularities of the first movement and in the elegance of the rhythmic to-ing and fro-ing in the Scherzo. Admirers of the string players can listen to the sensitivity of their consonant vibrato usage in the Adagio, where their opening statements are heavily vibrated before gradual lightening of finger, wrist and bow pressure allows even greater colours to emerge. For an example of the trio’s approach to rhythm try the finale – fine accented attacks and corporate virtuosity. The sound here is also rather more open than in the Schubert – the higher frequencies in particular are more sympathetically caught.

The Schubert is also on Doremi, where it’s coupled with D898. Both companies have struggled to open out the sound in the case of the E flat major. Nevertheless admirers of Oistrakh, in particular, and the now undersung greatness of his chamber colleagues, will welcome the return of these performances.

Jonathan Woolf

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