Bach’s “Double Concerto”

Bach’s “Double Concerto” holds a special place in the hearts of every violinist.  We’ve all played it: I learned it when I was 8.  It’s also a great excuse for two great violinists to get together to perform together.  I saw Itzach Perlman and Pincus Zuckerman play it in Carnegie Hall in the early 1980s (maybe late 70s?).  There’s a recording of them playing it too–as I recall, it was one of the first major “digital” recordings pressed onto vinyl.

But the Internet delivered this relic —Yehudi Menuhin and David Oistrakh! The audio quality is terrible and not in synch with the video. But . . . Menuhin and Oistrakh!!! A few notes to put this into context. If you surveyed the worlds’ violinists (and they have, btw), while there would not be unanimous opinion, Oistrakh would likely come out on top as the greatest violinist ever (accepting that some of the greats, such as Paganini, predated recording technology). Menuhin was no less a master in his own right, producing an unusually warm sound, so much so that the term the “Menuhin Sound” persisted long after he stopped performing. And, reflecting his statute in the community and despite latter day assessments, it is Menuhin who takes the first violin part here—but, on balance, I think Oistrakh gets a little deeper into the music.

This is an incredibly fun piece to play and the first movement fugue is easily discerned. I’ve also included a link to a modern recording on period instruments, which is frankly superior. It’s taken a proper Baroque pace (that is, fast) and very much in period style—very little vibrato and somewhat less controlled bowing.

J.S. Bach, Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor (Menuhin and Oistrakh):

J.S. Bach, Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor (period instruments):

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