Today we look at one of the largest figures in the violin world. Even today his influence is easy to see, with a large number of editions still published with his editings. David Oistrakh, died on this day in 1974.
Born in the Ukrainian town of Odessa, he began learning the violin and viola at age five with Piotr Stolyarsky, who would be his only teacher. He entered the Odessa Conservatory in 1923, where he graduated in 1926. In 1927, after performances of the Glazonov Violin Concerto in Kiev and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in Leningrad, Oistrakh moved to Moscow, giving his first Moscow recital and meeting future wife Tamara Rotareva. Together they had a son, Igor, in 1931. In 1934, he obtained a teaching position at the Moscow Conservatory, where he was made professor in 1939.
Oistrakh won the 1935 Soviet Union Competition, winning second prize in the Weiniawski Violin Competition in Warsaw in the same year. In 1937, he won the (then) Eugene Ysaye Competition (now the Queen Elisabeth Competition). During World War II, he was active in the Soviet Union, premiering concerti by Miaskovsky and Khatchaturian, and two sonatas by Prokofiev. Towards the end of the war, he developed a friendship with Shostakovich, which would lead to two violin concertos, and a sonata. Despite having a large reputation in the Soviet Union, he didn’t perform outside of the Soviet Union until after the war. In 1949 he performed in Helsinki, his first performance in the west. He visited France in 1953, Britain in 1954, and was allowed to tour the United States for the first time in 1955.
Oistrakh suffered a heart attack in 1964, but survived and continued to perform heavily. After a series of concerts conducting the music of Brahms, he suffered another, fatal heart attack in 1974 in Amsterdam. His body was returned to Moscow, and was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetry.
A selection of videos today. First, an interview with Gidon Kremer, a student of Oistrakh, from a 1999 documentary about Oistrakh. Then we have performances of Ravel Tzigane, Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and Prokofiev Violin Sonata Op. 80.
Who’s your favourite violinist? What’s your favourite performance by Oistrakh? Let me know in the comments, or write your own blog post, linking back here and I’ll add a link below.