C1844. JEAN MARTINON Cond. ORTF S.O.: 'Classical' Symphony #1 in D (Prokofiev); 'Pathétique' Symphony #6 in b (Tschaikowsky); w.DAVID OISTRAKH [dedicatée]: Violin Concerto #2 in c-sharp (Shostakovitch). (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-1116, Live Performance, 20 Oct., 1971, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
Theres no need for a lengthy analysis here - this superb set should be snapped up immediately, whether your interest is in Martinon, Oistrakh, or the repertoire pieces performed here. Also a composer himself, Martinon was a champion of 20th-century music, and he had a special affinity for Prokofiev - contemporaneous with his concert he recorded his pioneering set of that composers seven symphonies (the only preceding complete cycle being that of Rozhdestvensky). His rendition of the Classical Symphony is perfection itself - light as a soufflé, with fleet tempos, crisp rhythms, and transparent textures. Shostakovichs grim, dour Second Violin Concerto has remained far less popular than the First, which has three times as many recordings. It takes Martinon and Oistrakh a few measures in the opening movement to find the right interpretive groove, but after that theirs is a splendid account. In fact, I would now prefer this to others by Oistrakh I have heard (the studio recording with Kondrashin, and live accounts with Kondrashin, Rozhdestvensky, and Svetlanov) due to Martinons incisive conducting, particularly his propulsive account of the finale, that relieves the damp grayness that so often besets the work and uncovers its true combination of bleakness and irony. Finally, Martinon made a very fine early stereo recording for Decca in 1958 of Tchaikovskys Pathétique with the Vienna Philharmonic. Interpretively, this performance is similar to that one, but if the Decca account has the advantages of stereo studio recorded sound and the superior firepower of the Vienna ensemble, I find this version to be more passionate overall. Both accounts avoid sentimentalizing, excessive hand-wringing, and distraught hysteria, while not being short on genuine pathos. Martinon scores major points with me for slowing down and taking the first movements funeral dirge at something closer to a Largo, rather than rushing through it at the previous Allegro as so many conductors are wont to do. The Allegro con grazia has a few quirky agogic adjustments to the initial 5/4 quasi-waltz melody, more pronounced here than in the studio version, while the martial Scherzo is rendered briskly and without bombast. The Adagio lamentoso finale has the most notable divergence from the studio version, with slightly greater tempo contrasts between its sections and greater urgency in pressing forward to its two major climaxes.
The recorded sound is high-quality monaural. As usual, St. Laurent provides a back tray card and front-tray insert with basic data and a couple of photos but no notes."
- James A. Altena, FANFARE
David Oistrakh is considered the premiere violinist of the mid-twentieth century Soviet Union. His recorded legacy includes nearly the entire standard violin repertory up to and including Prokofiev and Bartók. In 1937 the Soviet government sent him to Brussels to compete in the International Ysaÿe Competition, where he took home first prize. With his victory in Brussels, Soviet composers began to take notice of their young compatriot, enabling Oistrakh to work closely with Miaskovsky and Khachaturian on their concerti in 1939 and 1940, respectively. In addition, his close friendship with Shostakovich led the composer to write two concerti for the instrument (the first of which Oistrakh played at his, and its, triumphant American premiere in 1955). During the 1940s Oistrakh's active performing schedule took him across the Soviet Union but his international career had to wait until the 1950s when the political climate had cooled enough for Soviet artists to be welcomed in the capitals of the West.
Throughout his career David Oistrakh was known for his honest, warm personality; he developed close friendships with many of the leading musicians of the day. His violin technique was virtually flawless, though he never allowed purely physical matters to dominate his musical performances. He always demanded of himself (and his students) that musical proficiency, intelligence, and emotion be in balance, regardless of the particular style. Oistrakh felt that a violinist's essence was communicated through clever and subtle use of the bow, and not through overly expressive use of vibrato. To this end he developed a remarkably relaxed, flexible right arm technique, capable of producing the most delicate expressive nuances, but equally capable of generating great volume and projection.
- Blair Johnston, allmusic.com