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Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19 (1916-1917) [20:43]
Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63 (1935) [27:34]
Violin Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 94 bis (arr. David Oistrakh) [23:26]
David Oistrakh (violin)
London Symphony Orchestra/Lovro von Matacic
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Alceo Galliera (2)
Vladimir Yampolsky (piano)
Rec. London, England, November 1954, mono (1); 14-19 May 1958, stereo (2); Colonaille Hall, Brussels, Belgium 22-25 May 1955. ADD

Three Oistrakh Prokofiev recordings from the 1950s all in excellent fettle.
This version of the fairy-tale First Violin Concerto of Prokofiev is a considerable improvement on Oistrakh’s later Soviet one with Kondrashin and the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra. There his tone and that of the orchestra is compromised by a tart and vinegary nasal quality. In this case the monophonic recording sounds very healthy despite the 52 intervening years. As for the performance of this glorious, gaudy, splendid and glimmering saga of a piece it is stunning. The LSO provide a backdrop full of intriguing character – and there’s a lot going on too. Oistrakh romps through the piece with marvellous silvery precision and exacting virtuosity. Matacic is a pliant and spontaneous-sounding partner – comparable with Pierre Monteux in his lightning-rod attention to detailing. He takes care of his soloist yet snatches opportunities to colour and pace amid Prokofiev’s brittle and crystal. Once again I note how the finale shows up Walton’s debt in his own Violin Concerto. This GROC resurrects a modern sounding recording to place alongside the Beecham-conducted Szigeti which you can hear on Naxos (see review). For a yet more modern sounding Prokofiev 1, I still recommend Sitkovetsky on Virgin (see review).

There’s a change of orchestra and conductor for the stereo recording of the Second Concerto. This is a much more sober work yet with echoes of the Romeo and Juliet ballet music and serenely of Bach in the middle movement. The recording is stunning – listen to those cavernous pizzicati towards the end of the Andante assai not to mention the castanets in the finale.
The Violin Sonata No. 2 began life as a Flute Sonata which was transcribed by the composer at Oistrakh’s request. It was a product of the composer’s wartime retreat to Perm in the Urals.  It’s a serene and untroubled work; not at all macabre or fantastic unlike the First Concerto.
The notes are by David Gutman and emphasise the story of the music rather than its recording history.
Precisely etched and joyously breathtaking Prokofiev playing.
Rob Barnett
EMI Great Recordings of the Century




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