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Reader’s comment: From Russia with love


In response to Jules Gomes: Confessions of a white supremacist music lover, Alison Houston wrote:

Did you have Oistrakh’s recording of the Shostakovitch Violin Concerto No 1 on LP?

Although my father was a professional musician and I grew up listening to him both playing and preparing lectures on a vast repertoire of early music, English 20th century music and nearly everything else in between, I first heard the Shostakovitch Violin Concerto when I was 15. It was on a programme, I think on Radio 4, called Talking About Music with Antony Hopkins.

We lived in a big old Elizabethan house with no electricity and so we listened to a battery-operated transistor radio, although this was about 1985. I was in the playroom, lit by a Tilley lamp and a couple of candles, and for some reason I was lying on the floor with my head under the table. I can still remember being utterly transfixed and feeling that ‘soul music’ moment.

Of course when I mentioned it to Daddy the next morning he dug out the LP from his vast collection and I listened to it over and over again on the battery-operated record player at full volume. He also had Oistrakh’s recording of the Prokofiev F minor Sonata with Leclair and Locatelli on the B side, which I also grew to love and listened to repeatedly. And of course Oistrakh’s recording of the Khachaturian Violin Concerto, whose slow movement is so moving. It was just right for my teenage mood, I loved to imagine the snowy gulag and cry my heart out for the Russian people while hoping that Maggie and Ronnie would sort things out and set them free.

(All available on YouTube, with that authentic, slightly warped and slightly out of tune Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra sound.)

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