This is not a new issue – it was originally
released in 1998 – but it’s been given
renewed interest with the increasing
length of Doremi’s Oistrakh Collection.
Subsequent discs have ranged far and
wide; taking in his Catoire sonatas,
standard concerti, Mendelssohn trios,
his Menuhin accompanied Bach and much
more enticing stuff. But this was where
it all began for Doremi, who are almost
unique in giving attention to the Oistrakh
Quartet recordings, of which we have
a brace here. Also included is the much
better-known and re-released 1946 Shostakovich
Trio. The Trio discs led by Oistrakh
have been well covered by Preiser but
so far as I’m aware they’ve not yet
reached the Shostakovich.
The Tchaikovsky receives
a performance invariably dominated tonally
and emotively by the first violin. But
a corollary is the immense sense of
warmth generated by the foursome and
the romantic tracery imparted, not least
in the exchanges of the opening movement.
There’s a chaste religiosity to the
slow movement, with textures of palpable
and moving depth, and Oistrakh’s spun
legato song over the accompanying pizzicato
figures is transcendently beautiful.
The scherzo is wittily etched and not
pressed too hard and the finale once
move thrives on Oistrakh-derived warmth.
It is articulated with verve and vigour.
The recording was not especially impressive
for its time – there’s a bit of a buzz
around the cello of Sviatoslav Knushevitzky
– and there are one or two rough moments
throughout but the playing as such is
The movement from the
Schubert is once again warmly aerated
and played with flexibility though here
there is some distortion at climaxes.
It would have been nice to have had
the complete quartet but this was all
that was recorded. The Shostakovich
Trio is rather more terra cognita. The
cellist Milos Sádlo has related
how he and his colleagues in the Czech
trio routinely took the newly written
work at rather different tempi from
the composer and Oistrakh but his adjustment
was central to the significance and
success of the 78 set recorded in 1946.
Admirers will know it and will know
of previous LP and CD reincarnations.
I happen much to prefer transfers that
retain a degree of surface noise without
compromising higher frequencies and
if that is your own preference then
you may find that this transfer has
used noise suppression rather too much.
It’s a more homogenised and generalised
sound picture than the one you will
get from the original 78s or from, say,
the Oistrakh in Prague LP set which
contains this trio. To my ears too much
has been dampened down in the interests
of shellac noise suppression.
Nevertheless this is
an important addition to Oistrakh’s
discography, re-establishing his quartet
as a living organism in the market place.
If you can deal with the sonics you
will be richly rewarded here.