Svyatoslav Knushevitsky / Lev Oborin / David Oistrakh

Chopin, Smetana, Dvorak, Ravel: Piano Trios

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The vast majority of violinist David Oistrakh's career was devoted to solo performance, which sometimes leads listeners to overlook his masterful chamber music contributions. This Urania album features four restored performances of Oistrakh's collaboration with pianist Lev Oborin and cellist Sviatoslav Kushnevitzky. Originally recorded in Russia in the mid-'50s -- a time when Russian recording technology was not typically producing consistently high-quality recordings -- the restored sound quality of this album is remarkably good: devoid of any hiss, well-balanced, and clear in tone. Sound quality of individual instruments also seems well-restored, with only the lower end of the piano suffering slightly from a mildly thin, tinny sound. Musically, there's never even a hint of Oistrakh trying to steal the show and place his own playing above the rest of the ensemble; rather, balance and communication between the three musicians is wonderfully amicable, producing a very fine chamber music feeling. The choice of repertoire is somewhat diverse, showcasing the ensemble's ability to switch styles and temperaments. Still, Oistrakh and his collaborators seem more at home and comfortable with the visceral qualities of Smetana and Dvorák than with the tenderness of Ravel. The only thing truly lacking from this two-disc set is some liner notes to provide listeners with some historical background about the players.

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