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David Oistrakh Collection: Volume 1
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

String Quartet in D major Op.11 (1871) [31.02]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

String Quartet in D minor – Andante con moto D810 Death and the Maiden (1824) [12.21]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)

Piano Trio in E minor Op.67 (1943) [23.09] +
The Oistrakh Quartet
David Oistrakh (violin); Milos Sádlo (cello); Dmitri Shostakovich (piano) +
Recorded (1946)
DOREMI DHR 7701 [66.43]

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 mightily impressive.

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.

Jonathan Woolf



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