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Eduard Grach
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Violin Concerto in D minor Op.77 (1878) [40:48]
Eduard Grach (violin)
Moscow State Philharmonic Orchestra/Kyrill Kondrashin
rec. Moscow 1961

Experience Classicsonline


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 Martinů’s 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 short.

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.

Jonathan Woolf





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