The catalogue is awash with David Oistrakh performances of the Tchaikovsky
Violin Concerto. The violinist recorded it in the studio on six occasions
and the discography is generously supplemented with countless live airings.
More than any other work in his repertoire, this perennial war-horse became
his calling card. As I haven’t found any striking interpretive divergence
between the many readings I’ve heard, what determines my preference for one
particular performance over another is usually quality of sound.
Oistrakh’s Op. 35 is compelling and of tremendous stature. Listening to
his account, one can only marvel at his flawless technique. With Heifetz
there’s more forward momentum, in the sense of faster tempi, and the
constant feeling of him forging ahead. The overall impression is of icy
detachment. Oistrakh opts for broader speeds, and the approach is more
relaxed. He luxuriates in the music, savouring the moment, yet never
sentimentalising it. Whilst Tchaikovsky demands of the player virtuosity of
the highest order, there are many lyrical moments, and these are eloquently
realised in this recording. The tone he coaxes from the fiddle is rich,
voluptuous and rounded.
The sound quality in the Concerto is first rate, and the balance between
soloist and orchestra ideal. The same cannot be said for the 1945 recording
of the composer’s Sérénade Mélancolique
, again with the same forces
and Kirill Kondrashin. Here the aural image is sonically compromised, with
the orchestra dimly ensconced in the background. The woodwinds are insipid
and lustreless and, at times, astringent. Despite the forwardly projected
sinewy violin timbre, Oistrakh’s performance is invested with a true Russian
flavour, and informed with sincerity and humanity.
Once again, I couldn’t help comparing Oistrakh’s Glazunov with that of
Heifetz. I felt that the latter’s recording has more of a sense of
structure, with Oistrakh’s performance tending to meander and conveying less
sense of direction. The recording is, however, in very decent shape for
Overall, what we have here is a very mixed bag, in terms of quality. Yet,
the Tchaikovsky Concerto alone should make this a worthwhile purchase.