Oistrakh: Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2 / Mozart Concerto No. 3 - Angel 35714
Jacket NM / LP NM
This handsome LP from Angel Records (35714, LP pressed by EMI in England / jacket printed in the USA, red/silver Angel label, mono) features David Oistrakh's sublime reading of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major K. 216 with his atmospheric account of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor Op. 63, both recorded during 14-19 May 1958).
In the former Oistrakh leads from the violin, while in the latter recording he cedes the podium to the veteran Alceo Galliera – the orchestra throughout is the Philharmonia. Both are classic performances of the gramophone, the Prokofiev Second in particular ranking as one of the supreme interpretations on record.
Wrote the esteemed critic Robert Maxham for Fanfare:
"The composer, Prokofiev, and his interpreter, David Oistrakh, made a chess odd couple, with the wildly attacking Prokofiev held at bay by the steadfastly positional Oistrakh. Unlike whatever sterile mutual masochism bound them together over the board, though, their musical collaboration turned out to be highly productive. In his notes to his recording of Prokofiev’s First Concerto, Ilya Gringolts mentions that, just opposite to their popularity in the West, that First Concerto, rather than the Second, remains dominant in the former Soviet Union. Its early champion in Russia, David Oistrakh, played a role similar to that of Szigeti in popularizing the piece in the West. In fact, between 1947 and 1971, Oistrakh recorded it no fewer than seven times. The performance included in EMI’s new re-release first appeared in 1955, having been recorded on November 18 and 21, 1954.
“As David Gutman mentions in his notes, the engineers drew very close to Oistrakh—in fact, to an extent that might have embarrassed even Isaac Stern. Those who consider this concerto an intimate work that subtly interweaves solo and ensemble could find such an unblinking focus disturbing; but since it picks up the very bite of his bow into the string, it affords a chance to hear him in an especially revealing way. Szigeti’s view of the concerto amounts almost to a negative image of Oistrakh’s: hard, gem-like, sardonic, and brittle, it differs as night from day from Oistrakh’s dreamy mysticism, enlivened by a wit and even a jazzy nonchalance in the last movement that would have lain comfortably within Szigeti’s expressive range had he chosen to read the relevant passages that way.
“Szigeti never recorded Prokofiev’s lyrical Second Concerto, and Oistrakh did so only once—and that time, tellingly, not in his homeland. The engineers set him further back in this 1959 stereo release (recorded May 14 and 19, 1958). The recessed Oistrakh also seems less committed to the concerto at hand, although his being buried under swirling orchestral detail in the slow movement may give an inaccurate impression of dimmed intensity. Nevertheless, the one violinist who seems likely to have produced a version competitive with Heifetz’s two simply didn’t approach the Master’s electricity in this work (and the slow movement’s tempo and the orchestra’s lack of spikiness, which Gutman cites in the notes, hardly tell the whole story)."
Incidentally, in addition to authoritative liner notes (by Burnett James – provided in English only), the rear side of the jacket carries a fascinating photo of Oistrakh during the recording sessions. The memorable cover photo of Oistrakh is credited to PC.