David Oistrakh Plays Brahms

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFMcBMqE6mQ] Here is a violin master performing the Scherzo by Johannes Brahms. There are several things I respond to in Oistrakh's playing.

For starters, Oistrakh played at a time when art music didn't have to be sold. He played with a disregard for the audience that I find healthy, as opposed to camera-oriented attitude that classical performers apparently have to have today. I accept the necessity of marketing in the arts now. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

I love the economy and potency of Oistrakh's movements. I love the straightforward reading he gives here: not a lot of fooling with the tempo. And I think Brahms left us an compelling little piece.

But it's Oistrakh's tone that knocks me over. It is focused, clear, deep, and gutsy. And he uses changes of tone color and vibrato to express harmonic and melodic subtleties. Check out the change of sound he makes by lightening the bow toward the end of the second theme (1:40).

It's also comforting to know that the violin gods sweat.