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Oistrakh rarities 850132
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David Oistrakh (violin)
Recorded Rarities from Melodiya
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Sonata for solo Violin No 1 in G minor BWV 1001
Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951)
Violin Sonata No. 3 in E minor, op. 57 'Sonata Epica' (1935-38)
Zara Levina (1906-1976)
Violin Sonata No.1 (1928)
David Oistrakh (violin)
Alexander Goldenweiser (piano: Medtner)
Zara Levina (piano: Levina)
rec. 1947 (Bach), 1948 (Levina), 1959 (Medtner)
BIDDULPH 85013-2 [78]

This release of Oistrakh rarities from Biddulph is very welcome indeed. The Bach and Medtner have seen previous incarnations on Brilliant Box and St Laurent Studio (YSL 0028 33) respectively, but the Levina is, as far as I’m aware, new to silver disc. The recordings originate from three Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga LPs, recorded between 1947 and 1959.

It’s puzzling that both David Oistrakh and Leonid Kogan set down cycles of Bach’s Six Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord, yet there’s little evidence of their interpretations of the Solo Sonatas and Partitas. Both apparently taught the unaccompanied works. This recording of the Solo Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor is all that Oistrakh left us. It was recorded 1 October 1947. It’s a refined interpretation, technically polished, with intonation pristine throughout. The opening Adagio is nicely paced, with bold tones and some endearing reflective moments. The Fuga is boldly delineated, and there’s superb intimacy in the Siciliano.

Medtner’s Violin Sonata No. 3 in E minor, Op. 57 ‘Epica’ occupied him from 1935 to 1938, and it bears a dedication to his late brother Emil. It was to be his final work for violin and piano. As its title suggests, the scale is indeed epic, consisting of four substantial movements. In fact, it’s almost symphonic in scale. The second movement is a Scherzo, and its folk dance motifs brim over with energy, enlivened by Oistrakh’s flexible sprung rhythms and sprightly buoyancy. In contrast the Andante con moto third movement is wistful and suffused with bitter-sweet longing. The pianist is Alexander Goldenweiser, who is fully attuned to the Medtner idiom and style.

I have to admit that the pianist and composer Zara Levina is a new name to me. Born in the Crimea, she was a Miaskovsky student at the Moscow Conservatory. Her three-movement Violin Sonata No. 1 dates from 1928. Oistrakh is partnered by the composer herself in this 1948 recording. Levina’s music is suffused with melody. Centre-stage is an exquisite Andante, overflowing with soulful lyricism. Oistrakh’s beautiful rich vibrant tone really rings out, backed by Levina’s discreet forlorn accompaniment. The finale sounds very much like it could have come from the pen of Prokofiev, so Oistrakh is very much in his comfort zone there.

All concerned at Biddulph have done a sterling job transferring and digitally mastering the three Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga LPs. They’ve obviously had access to pristine sources, and the recordings emerge incredibly fresh. The booklet notes have been provided by Tully Potter, and are extremely informative. Mr. Valery Oistrakh, the violinist’s grandson, has provided a couple of fascinating black and white photographs. This release is an essential purchase, not only for Oistrakh devotees, but more generally for violin mavens.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

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