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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 ‘Pathétique’ (1893) [45:22]
Violin Concerto in D (1878) [34:10]
David Oistrakh (violin)
Philharmonia Orchestra (sym.), Stockholm Festival Orchestra (conc.)/ Paul Kletzki
rec. Abbey Road, London, April 1960 (sum.) and live at the Stockholm Festival, September 1955 (conc.)
MEDICI MM018-2 [79:57]

Medici here marries the familiar 1960 Kletzki performance of the Pathétique with a live 1959 Oistrakh traversal of the Concerto. It takes the disc almost to the eighty-minute mark and does so, moreover, in some style.
Oistrakh collectors, indeed people generally, may wonder aloud about the need for another performance of the concerto. After all they may well be sated by the USSR/Gauk 78, or the 1957 Moscow/Kondrashin (or indeed the USSR/Kondrashin come to that), or the Bolshoi/Samosud, Moscow/Rozhdesvensky or those two live RAI/Kempe performances or the well loved Philadelphia/Ormandy, or the in some ways even better Saxon State/Konwitschny. Others survive as this 1960 Stockholm performance shows. As far as that the rhetorical question goes I suppose the answer must be that few players in recorded history can have played it as securely, as perceptively or as beautifully as Oistrakh. And that means recorded evidence will always have value, especially when, as here, the results are as committed and generous.
The year before Oistrakh had recorded the Sibelius with the same orchestra under Sixten Ehrling. His performance of the Tchaikovsky doesn’t differ materially from others from his discography; as ever he eschews a Heifetz tempo and doesn’t slow things down à la Elman – to mention the two other Russian performers so closely linked to the work – but marries exceptional virtuosity with tonal breadth. It’s a performance marked by sympathetic collaboration with Kletzki, by grandeur and superbly affecting phraseology. He rides through to the first movement climax with enormous panache, employs a bewitching range of colours and bow speeds for the slow movement – wonderful changes of weight for example – and takes the finale with dynamism and exciting drama. Architecture is never sacrificed to mere effect and the way Kletzki sculpts long lines here proves he was no ordinary accompanist.
The Pathétique was a very popular EMI best seller. It was still selling well on Classics for Pleasure in the 1970s when there was certainly no equivalence between relative cheapness of product and imaginative poverty. Even in a market as saturated as it then was – Karajan, Mravinsky, Giulini, Abbado, Maazel, Horenstein, and Stokowski – Kletzki held his interpretive head high, much as he did in Scheherazade. Kletzki was an ex-string player and always valued rich, singing violin tone, something of a mantra with him. Allied to this we find some very audible wind playing and vibrant and warmly textured playing. The 1960 sound still packs something of a punch and it’s been very well remastered here. The way Kletzki opens out at the reprise in the third movement still sends something of a shudder down the spine and the finale’s melancholy is astutely marked out.
Another fine entrant in this increasingly useful series, this Tchaikovsky release is a testament to Kletzki’s under-sung symphonic eloquence and adds the absorbing Oistrakh performance.
Jonathan Woolf


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