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David Oistrakh (1908 - 1974)

Born David Kolker on 30 September 1908, he took the name of his musician stepfather; his mother was also musical and often took him to the opera. At three he was given a toy fiddle but not until he was five did he begin serious studies, at the school of Piotr Stoliarsky: through this eccentric but effective teacher, Oistrakh absorbed mainly Czech traditions, escaping the Hungarian influence which predominated in Russia. Only in the 1920s, when he came under the spell of the Auer pupil Miron Poliakin and the Hungarian soloist Joseph Szigeti, did he start to absorb the Magyar tradition, and by then it was wholly beneficial, feeding into his already well-developed love of Brahms’s music. In 1923 he entered the Odessa Institute of Music and Drama and gave his first concerto performance, Bach’s Concerto in A minor, and in 1924 he made his recital début. His graduation programme in 1926 consisted of Bach’s Chaconne, Tartini’s ‘Devil’s Trill’ Sonata, Prokofiev’s First Concerto and Rubinstein’s Viola Sonata. The following year he was crushed when Prokofiev publicly slated his interpretation of the concerto, but later they became chess-playing friends and Prokofiev wrote two sonatas for him.



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