Beethoven: Violin Sonatas (complete)

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Violin Sonatas (complete)
PERFORMER: David Oistrakh (violin), Lev Oborin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 468 406-2 ADD Reissue (1962)
DG’s ‘Originals’ restored the Schneiderhan-Kempff Beethoven violin sonata cycle to the catalogue last year, while Philips had previously reissued the Grumiaux-Haskil set (1956-7), also in mono. Both are surveys of exceptional distinction: it’s often hard to choose between Grumiaux’s fastidious elegance and liquid phrasing, or the tensile rigour and aristocracy of Schneiderhan’s set. Now the stereo 1962 Paris recordings by David Oistrakh and Lev Oborin have reappeared in fine digital transfers, with the ten sonatas placed sequentially on four CDs.

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Oistrakh gives outstanding interpretations, particularly of the massive Kreutzer Sonata, Op. 47 (it’s less dramatic than Szeryng’s, perhaps, but more musically satisfying), and the darkly prophetic C minor work, Op. 30/2. Here, Oistrakh’s account hasn’t the steely austerity of Schneiderhan’s, or the fiery but sometimes crudely attained rhetoric of Szeryng’s – it’s far closer in spirit and delivery to Grumiaux’s, but often more musically sophisticated.

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Oistrakh and Oborin also give authoritative, Classically concise readings of the three Op. 12 works (1797-8), and of the Op. 30 group. The brilliance and eventfulness of their collaboration invoke the joy of fresh discovery in virtually every bar. Sonically, these Philips discs are impressive, and the cultivated musicianship and technical distinction of the Oistrakh-Oborin survey recalls an epoch of magnanimous, noble violin-playing that frankly doesn’t exist today. An essential purchase. Michael Jameson