David Oistrakh-Artist of the People?

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Warner/NVC Arts
PERFORMER: A film by Bruno Monsaingeon
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-23030-2

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During the war and its immediate aftermath, the only Soviet artists that we encountered in the West were on 78rpm records, most notably David Oistrakh, whose sets of the Khachaturian and Miaskovsky violin concertos were much sought after. Richter and Rostropovich had yet to surface.

Listening to him, or for that matter Leonid Kogan, puts the glitzy teenage whizz-kids of the present day firmly in their place. Oistrakh was far more than just a great violinist with a beautiful, gloriously rounded tone: he was an artist of nobility and spirituality. Bruno Monsaingeon himself speaks of Oistrakh’s art as ‘intense and serene – the epitome of purity and musical integrity’.

Anyone who knows his searching film about Richter will know what to expect: a scrupulously researched document, hitherto unseen archival material and trenchant commentary here from Menuhin, Rostropovich and Rozhdestvensky, as well as, of course, his son Igor. Rostropovich tells of Oistrakh’s experiences of the indiscriminate terror during the Thirties, which will be as new to viewers as much of the material in the Richter film.

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Monsaingeon has unearthed some fascinating biographical footage from Oistrakh’s childhood years and details his complex relationship with the Soviet regime. The appearance of this illuminating portrait on DVD represents an improvement in quality over the earlier video release, and we glimpse this incomparable artist in a wide variety of repertoire from Bach to the concertos that Shostakovich wrote for him.