<preform>Philharmonia Orchestra/Igor & Valery Oistrakh, Barbican, London </preform>

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The Independent Culture

Musical dynasties aren't uncommon, but an equal gift spread through the generations is.

Musical dynasties aren't uncommon, but an equal gift spread through the generations is. David Oistrakh begat Igor, who begat Valery: all violinists. David was undoubtedly a genius, but the same cannot be said of son and grandson.

The 50th anniversary of David Oistrakh's London debut was the hook dreamt up by the indefatigable Victor Hochhauser to justify bringing son and grandson to the Barbican (David died in 1974) in a concert of three concertos. (Judging from the prevailing hair colour in the hall, much of the audience may well have been at the 1954 Royal Albert Hall concert.)

A reduced Philharmonia Orchestra, with harpsichord, accompanied Igor and Valery in the perfect father-and-son piece, Bach's Double Concerto in D minor, with which David was so intimately linked. That association showed how differently the younger generations developed. From the way Valery stood to play, virtually with his back to his father, one could only speculate on the relationship between the two. Igor is now in his seventies, Valery - looking uncannily like his grandfather - perhaps half his age. As they stood together, the very holding of the violins said much: Igor relaxed at the neck, the violin moving easily with his body; Valery rigidly pinning the violin down with his chin, so keeping the instrument from moving.

In the Bach, Igor was the freer player, with a sweetness of tone and phrasing not matched wholly by his son despite a democratic share of thematic material. In the slow movement, if it was evident that Igor is not the player he was (his vibrato worryingly wide and slow), his range of colours and variations of sound clearly indicated a fading of a certain greatness. Valery, while matching his father's tone, came over as solid and reliable.

In Mendelssohn's concerto, Igor was the soloist. This showing, if anything, was finer than his performance of this concerto at the South Bank last year. It is young man's music but when played by an elderly man, something unbearably poignant and autumnal comes through, as though the thoughts of youth are as vigorous as ever but age has taken its physical toll. The octaves were bold and true, the fingers nimble, and his flying staccato brought tears to the eyes at the end of the first-movement cadenza.

Marco Parisotto, conducting, deftly caught and accompanied him. The orchestra, particularly the strings, seemed to caress the soloist, offering palpable support and applauding warmly at the end.

In Beethoven's concerto Valery, unlike his father, remained careful rather than carefree. All three movements were taken on the slow side, making Valery's matter-of-fact playing, despite the Oistrakh sweetness of tone, rarely more than pedestrian.

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