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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Violin Concerto in A minor BWV 1041
Violin Concerto in E major BWV 1042
Double Concerto in D minor BWV 1043*
David Oistrakh (violin)
Igor Oistrakh (violin)*
Moscow Chamber Orchestra/Rudolf Barshai
Recorded Moscow, 1972 and 1959 (Concerto in E major)
AULOS MUSIC AMC2-027 [50.35]

Oistrakh’s Bach never stales. Richly and ripely romanticised and ennobled by that sonorous tone – more flexible in the earlier 1959 recordings – these are connoisseur’s performances. Not that they aren’t for others but even so they do now occupy a semi-hinterland of Bach performances. By virtue of their saturated bass lines and plangent expressivity, these will appeal more to admirers of great violin playing and the great continuum of concerto performances on disc.

I’ve always found that the Barshai-led Moscow Chamber Orchestra sounded a bit congested, even for 1959. That’s a concern when it comes to the tuttis but the solid, thick sound saturates for much of the time, along with those big-boned basses. Oistrakh phrases seraphically in the slow movements, especially in the E major. In the case of the A minor, which is wonderfully rapt, there is just a taste of the tonal spread that could compromise his last years. We hear the harpsichord in the 1972 Double Concerto where he’s joined by Igor Oistrakh and they make for a tonally integrated and moving pairing. Those granitic basses do rather assault the finale – but the Oistrakhs survive it. Don’t confuse this, by the way, with the RPO recording with Eugene Goossens conducting, or the Concertos with the self conducted Vienna Philharmonic sessions.

The 1959 recording has responded well to Aulos’s DSD remastering as have the more recent concerto performances. Adherents should certainly own one or other of David Oistrakh’s Bach recordings and maybe to supplement this Double with the BBC Double with Menuhin. Fashion comes and goes but wisdom and tonal beauty are perennial.

Jonathan Woolf


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