David Oistrakh Centennial, this week!

September 27, 2008 at 03:59 AM · Well, we've helped Hilary Hahn create materials for a birthday slumber party for Arnold Schoenberg's 134th, we've seen Bram's photo essay (plus scary drunk singing;) for Eugene Ysaye's 150th birthday, and now it's time to create a little love for the great Russian violinist David Oistrakh, whose 100th birthday would be next Tuesday, Sept 30.

Next week is the week to submit your blogs about David Oistrakh, as well as discussions, thoughts, etc. Let's start our celebration on Monday, and let's share our enthusiasm for this great Russian master all next week.

I will be posting questions for a CD giveaway contest Monday through Friday. Violinist.com will be giving away CDs of rare chamber recordings by Oistrakh that were sent to me by Jacob Harnoy of Doremi.com. I'll give out a different one each day, with composers including Beethoven, Brahms, Smetana, Ravel, Babadzhanyan, Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, Tchaik, and more.

Replies (28)

September 27, 2008 at 05:27 PM · As a high school student, performing Mozart #4, I couldn't find the Grumiaux recordings...33 rpm back then. The Oistrakh version is so militaristic, the cadenza outweighs the 1st movement, his sound is brilliant, almost trumpet-like. My teacher tried to teach leggiero, pianissimo, and other delicacies, but I was "hooked" on The Big O's sound...Sul G in the 1st movt....loved the way he kept the open G ringing without bowing break in the last movt.

Back then, there was mostly Heifetz, Milstein and this Communist ! My patriotism was eclipsed by his Beethoven and Brahms....such clarity, rather unsubtle phrasing but to my ears, marvelous. I wasn't ready for Shostakovich but anxiously awaited the American premier radio broadcast....took a lot of years to enjoy O's pristine performance of this work. A great great fiddler to watch with that bull-dog expression and full bow detache, almost faster than my spiccato !! Sort of the precurser to Ilya Kaler's continuation of mega-bowing.

September 27, 2008 at 06:48 PM · Yes, is unbelivable that a communist could play so well the violin, and as every good communist, his

playing was revolutionary and subversive of all the good christian western playing traditions.

September 27, 2008 at 09:24 PM · I adore Oistrakh's playing. As I've mentioned many times, I heard him live (in Chicago) 6 times over the years. My grandparents, Russian refugees from Czarist Russia, were ardent classical music lovers and idolized Oistrakh, as a person and as a violinist. It was their recordings of him that introduced me to his playing in the late 1940's or early 1950's. I still remember them excitedly telling me about their "new" recording (in 1955, with Mitropolis and the NY) of the Shostakovich Violin Concerto. And I still remember, as a 14-year-old kid, them playing it for me and being literally overwhelmed by the music and the performance.

Live, it always impressed me that that Oistrakh generated such a big, voluminous sound from what looked like hardly any effort at all.

A great, great violinist, a wonderful artist, and (from what I have read) a warm and generous human being. Although he was once quoted as saying, "There are us violinists, and then there is Heifetz," he was one of only a handful who truly deserved the same accolade.


September 28, 2008 at 02:15 AM · Isaac Stern's comment about the Soviet-amercian cultural exchanges of that period included Oistrakh and went something like this: "We send them our Jewish violinists from Odessa, and they send us theirs."

I will always remember seeing Oistrakh in concert when I was a teenager. He was far and away the greatest I ever saw.

September 29, 2008 at 12:33 AM · Everyone is so right! What I would like to mentionned about this artist that is unique is that even after his death, he remains "such a phenomenon" He is better known than many modern violinist and the idol of people like me that were born much after his death. I never heard performances that created such excitement and admiration to the listener. There is really a deap hope message in his music. I and many people almost think he is god and I say that very objectively after having listening to many performers even if I dont like to compare poeple. This 100th birthday is really special and ,for me, symbolises that the strengh of such music and of such an extraordinary person lasts for ever!

Best whishes to all his fans and to his family (Igor Oistrakh, Valery Oistrakh etc)


September 29, 2008 at 02:55 AM · So here are some ideas for blogs, for anyone who would like to write this week about Oistrakh. You can choose any of these ideas, I'm just trying to get the ball rolling:

If you ever saw Oistrakh perform, what was it like, when was it, what did he play and what were your impressions?

If you ever played with, or studied from Oistrakh, describe that experience.

If you have studied Oistrakh's performances or recordings, what have you concluded? Which are most influential?

What do you feel Oistrakh's influence was on 20th-century violin playing? He has many editions out there, there were pieces he championed and for which he was the dedicatee, how did that change our violin world?

Pictures are welcome, etc.

Okay there you go. I will be setting up the CD contest Monday morning, Pacific time!

September 29, 2008 at 10:13 AM · Oh Man! I can't wait for the posts answering the questions Laurie listed!!!! I recently learned that he also was very proficient with a Viola also! Anyone ever here him play the viola live?

September 30, 2008 at 06:02 AM · Happy 100 Birthday Mr. Oistrakh!!!!! I enjoyed his lovely playing very much since I was a young student in China.

September 30, 2008 at 05:17 PM · I never had the privilege of hearing Oistrakh perform live, but I've listened to every recording and watched every clip I could lay my hands on, and have to say he was truly a colossus. Such an unassuming man as well, if accounts of his colleagues (eg Menuhin) are anything to go by.

I'm from India, and in the '70s, our country was a staunch friend of the USSR. I remember the Soviet vinyl record fair coming to my town around 1972 or so, and being bowled over by the playing I listened (I hadn't heard of Oistrakh before. Being 1966 born, I hope I can be forgiven!). If memory served me right, it was the Shostakovich concerto. I rushed to the counter and was shown the sleeve of the record that was playing. It had the genial face of David Oistrakh, in his inimitable playing stance, rapt in concentration. From that moment on, I was an Oistrakh devotee. I took his posters from that fair and pinned them up in my bedroom, the way others would rock stars. I didn't have enough money to buy records at that fair, sadly, but I've made up for lost time, since :-)

One hesitates to use superlatives in violin playing. Music is neither a beauty pageant nor the Olympics. But Oistrakh truly is a hard act to follow. I know that's putting it extremely mildly.

I did the Igor/Valery Oistrakh concert at the Barbican in 2004. It was the 50th anniversary of David Oistrakh's London debut concert of 1954. It featured 3 concertos, the Bach double, the Mendelssohn and the Beethoven.

September 30, 2008 at 03:23 PM · David Oistrakh z"l. He was a very friendly and modest man. In a way he could have been the friendly neighbour that we just were greeting by seeing each other from time to time without knowing too much about each other.

But, when he started to sing on his violin a radical change took place. His face with shaking cheeks transformed him into something of an angel. He played heavenly already here on earth.

There was also this so necessary devil in his playing, so I think he brought a lot of salt to the sweet Heaven.

His 100 year's birthday, even though not among us living physically, but surely spiritually, comes this year on the first day of the Jewish New Year-Rosh Hashanah.

The great wish is always for a real sweet year, and by listening to him I get the sweetest (not sentimental sugarlike) and most beautiful wish, I can imagine.

Three times, I've heard him in life and also rehearsing.

It is worthwhile to have been born only for these three moments.

September 30, 2008 at 04:06 PM · The first time I heard David Oistrach, I was 11 years old... I remember he performed with Frida Bauer in a long recital program. At the end,he played Messian thème and variations and Ravel Tzigane...he broke a string in Ravel's cadenza and had to restart all the piece over again. I was backstage when he performed as an encore Locatelli Caprice the labyrinth. He and my teacher were friends so I had the opportunity to meet with him. He was such a nice person. I remember they were exchanging the two strads when they were speaking in Russian. I heard him several times after, and for me, he was the greatest violinist and musician. His sound was unbelievable in the concert hall and recordings do not capture all its beauty.

September 30, 2008 at 05:43 PM · I love hearing people's accounts of hearing Oistrakh perform live.

Today's the day, happy birthday to David Oistrakh!

We have a winner from yesterday's contest: Congratulations to yesterday's winner, Ruth Kuefler of Topeka, Kansas, who correctly answered that one of the famous Russian composers who wrote pieces for David Oistrakh was Dmitri Shostakovich. There were three such composers: Dmitri Shostakovich, who wrote Violin Concerto No. 1 and Violin Concerto No. 2; Sergei Prokofiev, who wrote Violin Sonata No. 1, and he transcribed his flute sonata for violin also, with the help of Oistrakh; and

Aram Khachaturian, who wrote Violin Concerto. There are probably more compositions; if I've missed any, be sure to tell us!

Would you like to win a rare recording of Oistrakh? Come answer today's question! Also posted with today's question is a video of the day, for your listening pleasure. Today's is Oistrakh playing Debussy's "Clair de Lune."

September 30, 2008 at 09:22 PM · Hi, I would have a question for Marc Villeneuve, did you met Oistrakh in Canada? Was your teacher teaching in Canada? Since I am Canadian, I would like to hear more about his concerts here! The other night, I was more than shocked when at the 75e saison de l'OSM (Montreal Orchestra)they didn't even show Oistrakh in the diapositive when they showed the great solists that played with the Orchestra through the years. We say Menuhin, Stern, Perlman, Haendel, but not him. I do know for sure that he have played at the Place des arts (MTL) with Frida Bauer! Did he ever played with the OSM?



October 1, 2008 at 12:09 AM · You forgot one composition written for Oistrakh by Shostakovich - the violin and piano sonata.

October 1, 2008 at 01:54 PM · Anne-Marie: The concert took place in 1966 at the salle Wilfrid Pelletier...The hall was packed like if we were at a rock concert... he did played several times with the M.S.O. after and I remember , because we were invited ( the students of Taras Gabora) at the rehearsal, he gave an oustanding performance of the Tchaïkovski concerto in 1969 -70... I heard him also in the Brahms. Impossible to describe the beauty of his sound in the hall. He always sang on the violin. Oistrach was a great admirer of Fritz Kreisler , a follower of his tradition and today, I truly believe James Ehnes is the next of that "lignée "

In Amy's Biancolli biography of Kreisler, she relates a very touching story about Oistrach. During the early 50's, Oistrach was in the U.S.A. and gave a recital in Carnegie Hall. He was dying to meet with Kreisler and had previously written a letter to Kreisler in which he declares his great admiration for the master. At the end of the recital, some disturbance occurred in the hall. An old man, applauding and standing up was passing in the front rows. The public recognised Fritz Kreisler as he just walked in front of Oistrach still on the stage...Oistrach, did not understand what was going on....He asked

the pianist who in turn did not know what was happening. Only after Kreisler left Oistrach was told about the presence of the master...Later on, a meeting was arranged and Oistrach finally met Kreisler. Kreisler wrote some accounts, with great praised, on Oistrach playing.The two had deep admiration for each other.

October 1, 2008 at 05:40 PM · About DFO, three sites:


Oistrakh.ru (in russian or english)

Yahoo's group David Oistrakh

October 1, 2008 at 10:25 PM · Thanks so much Mark for the information, these concerts really looked unbelivable and I have a hard time to imagine, when I attend occasionnally concerts in this hall that Oistrakh have played there once!!! Feel free if you know other things about Oistrakh and his outstanding performances that you would like to share with us. I like so much to here these stories because I would have wish so much to had the chance to hear him live! Here is a link that could interest you and everyone else, it is an article on Oistrakh that a girl (page turner)wrote about him. It was also at the Wilfrid Pelletier Hall and maybe you know her if she was a violin student back then. http://www.walrusmagazine.com/articles/2005.03-meditation-classical-music-history/

It is long but really interesting and almost poetic and funny!

Thanks for your answer,


ps: thanks to Carlos for the links!

October 2, 2008 at 12:56 PM · I nearly forgot: I made a "David Oistrakh" flair for Facebook about six months ago! To date I think I'm the only one who has added it to my profile. It would be a "lovely tribute" if all the v.commers who are also sucked into Facebook would add it to their Pieces of Flair! ;-)

October 3, 2008 at 04:50 AM · Today's question is up, and my apologies for getting later and later every day! (I've been recovering from gum surgery, which has slowed me down a little more than I wanted it to!)

Even if you don't enter the contest, you have to click on today's question just so you can see the video I put up, of Oistrakh playing the Brahms Double Concerto with Rostropovich. A real favorite!

I've also neglected to announce a few winners:

Congratulations to yesterday's winner, Jay Azneer of Clearwater, Florida, who answered correctly that Oistrakh was playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto during the Battle of Stalingrad in winter 1942 (WWII), while downtown Stalingrad was being massively bombed by the German Luftwaffe. His act of heroism was in playing it to the end.

And congratulations also to today's winner, Debra Wade of Renton, Washington, who answered correctly that Oistrakh taught at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his most famous pupils were: Nina Beilina, Stefan Gheorgiu, Eduard Grach, Olga Kaverzneva, Mihail Gotsdiner, Oleg Kagan, Gidon Kremer, Oleg Krysa, Igor Oistrakh, Victor Danchenko, Olga Parkhomenko, Victor Pikaisen, Simeon Snitkovsky, Cyrus Forough, and Liana Isakadze.

October 3, 2008 at 04:57 AM · Greetings,

V.commie inspired me to go back and watch Oistrakh DVDs again and he is juist as draw dropping as ever. Take a look at one of the bonus tracks on his a minor cocnerto DVD. He plays the last moveemnt of the Brahms with the most awesome bow control one could wish for. Perfection cannot be dated.



October 3, 2008 at 06:39 AM · I stuck the whole Brahms Double up on my blog. I just love it.

October 3, 2008 at 02:33 PM · Hello,

Can someone sommerize what are the Oistrakh DVDs. How many are thay and what is their titles. Because they look very interesting! The only one I know is called Artist of the people and it is a very good one that talk about his life in Russia. It's available on youtube.



October 3, 2008 at 03:20 PM · About Brahm's double. I prefer the DFO-Fournier to

Slava. And I´ve a previous one,very rare,with Knushevitsky and Eliasberg (1948).The orchestra

sounds like a circus band, but the solists are fantastic.

October 3, 2008 at 03:25 PM · Those sound interesting, Carlos! Buri, which DVDs are you referring to, is there a link for getting them?

October 3, 2008 at 07:23 PM · Congratulations to today's winner, Stephen Kelley of Omaha, Nebraska, who answered correctly that the other famous violinist took from the same childhood teacher as Oistrakh, Piotre Stolyarsky, was Nathan Milstein. Other violinists who took from Stolyarsky include Samuil Furer, Boris Goldstein, Elizabeth Gilels (wife of the legendary Soviet violinist Leonid Kogan and sister to the eminent pianist Emil Gilels), Igor Oistrakh, Mikhail Fikhtengoltz and Eduard Grach.

Have you still not won a historic Oistrakh recording this week? You have one more chance! Answer today's question to enter to win! :)

October 4, 2008 at 06:12 PM · This is the Brahms video Buri was talking about

Part 1


Part 2


King David is totally in control

October 6, 2008 at 04:50 PM · Hi everyone! I kept the contest up all weekend, so here at last is our winner from Friday's question:

Congratulations to Kama Prellwitz of Rainbow Lake, NY, who correctly answered that David Oistrakh is buried in Moscow. He's buried at Novodevichy Cemetery.

Thanks to everyone for your remembrances, your blogs and your participation in the contest in celebration of David Oistrakh's centennial birthday! Be sure to e-mail me if you have ideas for other celebrations, contests, etc. This all came about because of a reader with great enthusiasm for Oistrakh.

This week we will be giving out Anne-Sophie Mutter's new recording (officially to be released in the USA Tuesday) of the Bach a minor Concerto and Sofia Gubaidulina's "In Tempus Praesens."

October 13, 2008 at 05:00 PM · It saddens me to see that the webpage for David Oistrakh in IMDb has not a single Comment about him. I plan on posting something soon and hope a few others will add their thoughts too. He deserves our attention.


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