There are plenty of available versions of the Mozart Violin Concertos, but few that can match the recordings David Oistrakh made in Berlin back in 1971. His big, juicy tone is irresistible, as is his flowing legato line and the intensity with which he elevates what sometimes (in unsympathetic performances) can seem like mere juvenilia. The first two of Mozart’s concertos for solo violin do display less variety and depth than the later ones, but the 19-year-old was a fast learner, writing all five of them within eight months in 1775.
The air on Mt. Olympus must have been something like that in Berlin’s Jesus-Christus-Kirche when, in September 1969, the threesome of Richter, Oistrakh and Rostropovich joined Herbert von Karajan for this majestic recording of Beethoven’s underrated Triple Concerto. That there could have been such a meeting of the minds in this gathering of greats is difficult to believe, until one remembers that the three soloists were frequent collaborators who all spoke the same musical language, and after years in the trenches knew each other and their conductor very well. As one would expect, the solo work of the three Russians is brilliant and deeply musical. But just as delightful is the way they adjust from solo to ensemble roles and play together, with perfect unanimity, in the duet and trio passages. Karajan and the Berliners provide a monumental accompaniment, weighty, powerful, and rich in tone. The recording, one of the best from EMI in this venue, has been remastered in exemplary fashion and is impressively detailed and vivid.
Few violinists could perform with such overwhelmingly beautiful sound, power and absolute technical security.
These performances of Khachaturian's concertos for piano and violin are almost but not quite definitive. Both works are played by the performers for whom they were composed, Lev Oborin in the Piano Concerto and David Oistrakh in the Violin Concerto, and both receive performances of complete commitment, total dedication, utter authority, and unbelievable virtuosity.
TDavid Oistrakh was one of those violinists beloved by people who don't especially like violinists. Don't get me wrong, plenty of violin aficionados love him too. But the fact that he played with such warmth of tone and musicality, never indulging in the screeching cat-music stuff that some violinists think sounds flashy, makes him uniquely listenable to folks not into violin playing for its own sake. Perhaps the fact that he was also a distinguished conductor had something to do with it, for he always seems to know where he is–how everything fits together. His performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto is a case in point: soulful, exciting, never ragged or overblown. Add Emil Gilels' epic rendering of the Piano Concerto and how can you refuse?