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The Devil’s Trill – showpieces for violin and piano
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Violin sonata in G minor Op.1 No.6 Devil’s Trill [13:47]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Suite bergamasque - Clair de lune (1905) [4:40]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Canciones populares españolas No. 4 Jota arranged Paul Kochanski (1914) [2:59]
Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Extase Op.21 [9:49]
Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Valse-scherzo Op.34 transcribed Bezekirsky [5:31]
Josef SUK (1874-1935)
Píseň lásky Op.7/1 (1897) arranged Jaroslav Kocian [6.07]
Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967)
Three Hungarian folk dances arranged Grigory Feighin [4:19]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880) arranged August Wilhelmj
Légende Op. 17 (1864) [7:27]
Aleksander ZARZYCKI (1834-1895)
Mazurka Op 26 [4:46]
David Oistrakh (violin)
Vladimir Yampolsky (piano)
rec. No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, February 1956

Great Recording though this may be the sleeve picture shows the original LP with its coupling of the Devil’s Trill and Mozart’s K454 sonata. Both sonatas and the vignette pieces were recorded over the course of four days during February 1956. Oistrakh aficionados will also be well aware that Testament has licensed a lot of this material from EMI. You’ll find the Tartini on SBT1114 where it’s coupled with the Schubert Octet and the de Falla, Debussy, Tchaikovsky and Zarzycki on SBT1116 conjoined with Prokofiev’s First Concerto. I can’t help feeling that Testament’s couplings are rather incongruous to say the least and don’t make for especially straightforward listening.
This one however has a very well established look to it. I’ve been listening to a contemporaneous recording of the Tartini by the much younger Russian player Yulian Sitkovetsky. His was a comet-sized talent, digitally remarkable, brutally stilled in his early thirties. But listen first to the younger man and then to Oistrakh and we hear two entirely differing approaches, the Romanticist Sitkovetsky meeting the more Classicist instincts of Oistrakh. Recorded warmly if a trifle distantly Oistrakh is dextrous, brilliantly precise in his trills, superbly equalized across all four strings, and builds the tension in the cadenza with magnetic drama. Sitkovetsky fails because his cadenza is overly metrical and his power play lacks the requisite light and shade.
The rest of the programme is devoted to the kind of favourites that flecked his concerts with such consistent beauty. The Debussy is a lovely performance, graced by an exquisite slide. His de Falla is less voluble and volatile than, say, Stern or Heifetz from amongst his contemporaries. The subtlety of his vibrato usage and the metrical sophistication he employs bring their own very true rewards. As indeed does the certain tristesse he finds in the final bars – unusually so. Ysaÿe’s music – bar the solo sonatas – was pretty much the province of Russian players from the 1930s to the 1960s. At a time when western players shunned the more overt moments enshrined in them fiddlers such as Oistrakh continued to carry the flame. His Extase burns powerfully – highly expressive pointing brings this piece simmeringly to life.  Vibrancy and colour inform the Tchaikovsky, a piece tailor made to display his rhythmic incision. And he plays the Suk, in the Jaroslav Kocian arrangement, with a huskily romantic tone and constantly changing vibrato.
The Kodály pieces are in the arrangement by Oistrakh’s violinistic colleague Grigory Feighin - and the second in particular is an especially entertaining pizzicato-laced affair. Wieniawski holds no terrors for him and the panache of the playing is matched by Vladimir Yampolsky’s own pianism. The little-performed Zarzycki was once quite a popular number – Huberman once recorded it - but Oistrakh’s is a much smoother and more elegant affair.
So, yes, a wonderful collection. But then most Oistrakh collections are. Whether one should allow it as a GROC is another matter – I’d rate it as a cherishable recital but Great surely means something else. If this is a “Great” recording what is Oistrakh’s Shostakovich 1? There’s really no need to entice the punters with spurious puff. This recital can survive very well without it
Jonathan Woolf
EMI Great Recordings of the Century


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