Eduard Grach was born
in 1930 and studied in Odessa under
Mordkovich and Stolyarsky continuing
his education in the Central Music School
and in Moscow Conservatory in Yampolsky’s
class. Later still he took master classes
with David Oistrakh and was a serial
prize winner over a number of years;
in 1949 the Bartók Competition,
in 1955 the Marguerite Long and Jacques
Thibaud International Competition and
finally in 1962 the Tchaikovsky, by
which time he was thirty two.
His repertoire was
wide and included works by such as Eshpai,
concerti and pieces by Babadjanian,
Krein, Rakov, Khachaturian, and Shchedrin.
Checking his big discography
I noted the following tasty items; Afanasyev’s
Concerto as well as that by Arbarov.
He’s taped Alabiev’s Trio as well as
his Introduction, theme and variations.
Babadjanian’s sonata was recorded with
the composer at the piano. Baltin’s
concerto was also recorded as was the
much better-known Conus. As for Eshpai
Grach was something of a flag bearer,
having recorded the two concertos twice
over; the first with the composer conducting
and later with Svetlanov. The Second,
written in memory of Miaskovsky was
recorded first with Svetlanov and then
with Kitaenko. You might also like to
note that he seems to have recorded
concertino for piano trio and string
orchestra – and the Brahms sonatas,
in case one thinks he recorded nothing
but mouth-watering rarities. In truth
there’s much more besides.
In this disc, which
comes in at pretty short measure, he
is teamed with an elite accompanist
for one of Grach’s favourite works,
one he played at competitions and which
seems to have remained a talismanic
piece, the Brahms. Kondrashin would
have steadied any soloist’s nerves but
Grach doesn’t appear to have needed
it. He gives a serious minded, thoughtful,
intelligent and attractive performance.
There’s nothing especially sensuous
about his well-focused tone. He does
employ some expressive shifts but not
too many. His trill is of electric velocity.
Grach does tend to over-vibrate in some
of the lyric episodes in the first movement,
to the detriment of the musical argument.
But there’s a good oboe solo in the
second movement and Grach evinces a
fine array of tone colours, characterises
well and brings a strong sometimes rugged
strength to bear. It’s a straightforward,
rather chewy Russian reading – with
all the strengths that that implies.
Kondrashin marshals things superbly.
I enjoyed it.
On a technical point
the gap between movements is woefully
Whilst I welcome this
(very short measure) CD I would really
like more – the restoration of Grach’s
many tantalising rarities alongside
his more cosmopolitan fare should be
a priority. In case you’re interested
YouTube has plenty of examples of Grach
in action – prominently the Brahms and
Elgar concertos. Regarding the latter
I’d say that architecturally speaking
he’s on a par with Igor Oistrakh – which
is high praise in my book.