MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing from

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]

Biddulph Recordings have been a long-standing leader in restoring historical recordings of the 20th century’s most distinguished musicians, and for issuing new recordings by young musicians such as Maxim Vengerov. Notably, the company have specialised in violinists, among which have been highly rated releases of Kreisler and many others. This is their first release of the outstanding Soviet violinist, teacher and conductor David Oistrakh - perhaps owing to the difficulty of acquiring permissions for release in the west from Melodiya and the Oistrakh family.

Oistrakh (1908-1974) was one of the violin greats and his influence was enhanced by his teaching at the Moscow Conservatoire for forty years during which time he tutored Klimov, Pikaizen, Shnitkovsky, Kagan, Gotsdiner, Feigin, Isakadze, Kremer, Krysa, and his son Igor, who all furthered the lineage in their own teaching world-wide. There was always a warmth and an accuracy in his portrayal of a composer’s score and intentions. He was a great interpreter of his contemporaries, notably Khachaturyan, Shostakovich, Myaskovsky, Prokofiev, and Weinberg, and also of the classics - Tchaikovsky, Brahms and Beethoven. His interpretations of the Mozart and Beethoven violin sonatas with Lev Oborin were among the great collaborations on record. A notable event in Soviet music was his 1947-8 series dedicated to the history of the violin concerto in which he gave a series of concerts from the baroque period of Bach through to modern 20th century composers, Elgar, Stravinsky, Walton and others.

Oistrakh’s live concert and studio recordings have been regularly issued from the time of 78 rpms through to the CD era; however, this issue from Biddulph offers rarely-heard recordings of the Bach G minor solo sonata and of Russian composers Medtner and Levina. Oistrakh’s recordings of Bach are generally restricted to the sonatas for violin and harpsichord.

The opening of the Bach G minor sonata is a little shrill, but in the Adagio the tone quickly settles down into a beautiful passage, while in the Fuga: Allegro there is some exquisitely melodic beautiful playing revealing how magnificent an interpreter of Bach Oistrakh was. In the Siciliano, he is sublime in the dramatically lofty, almost celestial, playing before the exciting, culminating Presto.

I have attempted to find an empathy with Medtner’s music both in the concert hall and on record, and despite outstanding playing on this recording, I remain unconvinced by his creativity. In this, his most often performed ‘Epic’ violin sonata, the opening movement, Andante meditamente – Allegro, there is a bright Slavic idiom, and it is not long before Oistrakh’s playing surpasses his celebrated partner Alexander Goldenweiser (he was 83 when this recording was made), embroidered with some exquisite violin playing, but in the rather prolonged Allegro section, the music seems to lose its momentum and direction. The mood changes in the Scherzo: Allegro molto vivace e leggiero, with a racy bright theme immaculately performed, while in the Andante con moto, there is an old Russian folk song on the violin following the hard piano chords, and the folk song goes through variations before the Finale: allegro molto, opening with a striking opening, quoting from sacred chant in an upbeat tempo and bringing the sonata to a bright, upbeat close. Oistrakh’s partner here Alexander Goldenweiser was a great pianist, teacher and composer, and there is little sign of any significant decline in his pianistic skills here, despite his advanced years.

The real find on this disc is the early piece by Zara Levina – surely among the most neglected Russian composers. Zara Alexandrovna Levina was born into a Jewish family in Simferopol in the Russian Empire territory of Crimea. She studied at Odessa Conservatoire and gained a distinguished gold medal, then continued her studies at the Moscow Conservatoire, studying composition with Glière, and later with Kabalevsky and Myaskovsky before graduating in 1932. She also studied piano with Felix Blumenfeld and with Davidenko, who was a leading proletarian composer and she joined in the radical PROKOLL group of students and teachers at the Conservatoire. During this period, her ‘Poem about Lenin’ cantata was premiered; however, after 1932, she developed friendships with Prokofiev, Shostakovich and other leading Soviet musicians. Among her finest works are two piano concertos, two piano sonatas and two violin sonatas, a Jewish Rhapsody for piano (dedicated to her father), many solo piano works and a huge number of romances which continue to be performed widely by the country’s leading singers. A previous review of a CD devoted to Zara Levina including her violin sonata is here and her piano concertos are also reviewed here.

The opening Allegretto of the violin sonata has an attractive violin idea which dominates before gaining a faster, more dynamic tempo. This transforms into a more reflective section and a melodic folk song which is reprised before the close. In the Andante, a mood of intense lamentation emerges before it becomes rather melancholy yet appealing, especially on the piano. In the Allegro con brio, the piano opens with a brisk upbeat tempo, and some fine attractive violin playing brings this excellent sonata to a close. It is clear that Levina has a very distinct musical individuality and intellect which deserve wider attention.

The transfer and remastering by David Hermann and by Dennis Patterson are excellent; the solitary blemish is a very slight deterioration at the opening of the Bach and the Medtner recordings probably owing to the swish from the outer part of the LPs used; otherwise, their sound is outstanding for their age. The CD notes are in English only, yet offer a highly informative essay on Oistrakh by Tully Potter with photos provided by Valery Oistrakh, David’s grandson. For any collectors of David Oistrakh’s legacy, this new CD will be an obligatory purchase.

Gregor Tassie

Previous reviews: Jonathan Woolf ~ Stephen Greenbank

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing