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With such a genius of a father, it is not surprising that Igor met and worked with some of the leading Russian composers, too. 'I had been working also with Shostakovich. When he wrote the Second Concerto, which my father premièred -- he composed it and everything else of his for the violin, for him -- he was ill in a clinic, and the first performance before the official première was at a small place in Moscow. I brought Shostakovich a tape, and he discussed with my father over the telephone what was wrong with the tempi and balance. I think that Shostakovich was not present at the actual première, and only three for four months later I was also playing the concerto.

'Shostakovich attended all my rehearsals and even made some corrections to the orchestral dynamics. I was contacted by him again after I started playing his Sonata for Violin and Piano with my wife, following my father's performance. He gave instructions, and I knew him closely. I met Prokofiev as well; when he wrote his F minor Sonata, he invited my father to his dacha to play for him and I was only fourteen years old. Kabalevsky gave me his Concerto to play when I was still a schoolboy. I played it many times with him conducting very fast! Now I play about 58 concerti, and Khrennikov dedicated three nice pieces for violin and piano to me -- they are very difficult!'

'Mutilated versions of concerti sometimes cause concern, like Leopold Auer's revisions of the Tchaikovsky concerto's last movement. Of course I played it for fourteen years -- it was fashionable in Russia, and partly for a Hanover concert with the Berlin Philharmonic and Karajan. The orchestra was due to arrive at six o'clock for a short rehearsal; the event starting at eight. Unfortunately they arrived at seven instead and we met for fifteen minutes' rehearsal, and because of the cuts we needed to discuss them for fourteen minutes only. It was such a pity, because I would have had much more pleasure talking with such a great musician about some other more musical problem, like the passage which Auer made quite effective "up and down" at one point, being replaced instead by the original bars.

'Instead, I simply said, "Maestro, I hope you don't mind that I'm playing the Auer version". He replied, "You can play anything, but please, the same number of bars!" After that concert I decided to cancel the cuts and perform the original.'

Commercial recordings have their ups and downs, too. 'I enjoy it, but you have to discipline yourself all the time. We concert artists have the habit of being able to concentrate in all sorts of situations, like playing well at half past seven and not later. Half past nine is too late, you know! Compared with composers, writers and painters -- they can even do it when not in the mood either two hours later, or at night, or tomorrow. Next week, even!'

'Then the producer/engineer says, "I'm sorry, we will have to change the microphone as we have a noise", or someone goes to the wrong hall by mistake, and we don't record at all! Everything is necessary to re-create enthusiasm and freshness, artificially; and maybe I'm also getting tired or too lazy to make intercontinental flights. I still do it, and recently I was conducting Strauss's Don Juan (very hard!) and Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, but I'm more happy with shorter travelling and performing mainly in Europe.'

Copyright © 9 February 2003 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK


Igor Oistrakh celebrates the 50th anniversary of his UK début with a concert at London's Royal Festival Hall on Saturday 15 February 2002 at 7.30pm. Benjamin Wallfisch conducts the English Chamber Orchestra in Mozart's Haffner Symphony and Oistrakh joins them to play the Mendelssohn and Beethoven Violin Concertos.


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