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.