The Strad Issue: May 2016
Description: Frida Bauer brings the best out of Oistrakh in the Brahms sonatas
Musicians: David Oistrakh (violin) Frida Bauer, Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
Composer: Johannes Brahms

That great Brahmsian David Oistrakh never systematically recorded the sonatas. We have nothing with his longtime sonata partner Lev Oborin, a 1955 D minor with his tour accompanist Vladimir Yampolsky and a 1960 G major with Yampolsky’s successor Frida Bauer, plus a gallimaufry of concert performances.

In this live G minor with Bauer (Prague, 1972) the balance slightly favours the violin and Oistrakh gives a nice, trim account of the first movement; in the second Bauer takes a bar or two to get going but Oistrakh plays with lyricism and strength. The finale is lovely.

Oistrakh and Sviatoslav Richter always make me think of two mastodons trying to mate but not succeeding. In the A major (Moscow, 1972) Richter starts well and Oistrakh does his best but the opening movement fails to hang together; Oistrakh plays pleasantly in the second while Richter sounds perfunctory, and the best of the finale also comes from Oistrakh.

In the D minor with Bauer (Prague, 1966) balance is better and the opening Allegro is enjoyable, with friendly give and take, if not as heroic as some. Oistrakh’s vibrato is accentuated by the microphone in the Adagio but his double-stopping is heavenly. The scherzo has the real Brahms feeling and the duo tear into the finale with all the heroics missing from the first movement.

The ‘FAE’ scherzo with Richter (Moscow, 1968) has fierce violin sound and tinny piano tone. The artists rather cancel each other out: the notes and impetus are present but Brahms is not.

Tully Potter