Igor Oistrakh, a well-known violinist who was part of a violin-playing family including his father, David, one of the greatest exponents of the instrument of the 20th century, died on August 14 in Moscow. He was 90.
His son, violinist Valery Oistrakh, said the causes were pneumonia and heart problems.
Although much of his career coincided with the Cold War, Mr. Oistrakh was well known in New York and elsewhere in the West as the Soviet Union sent its best musicians on tour. He made his New York debut at Carnegie Hall in February 1962 and performed with the Symphony of the Air under Alfred Wallenstein. Harold C. Schonberg, who reviewed the concert in NewsMadura, noted that few could compete with David Oistrakh, calling Igor “a good violinist, though far from a great one.”
But in December 1963, Mr. Oistrakh performed several more times in New York and had established himself as an admirable musician independent of his father.
“Little can be said of the outstanding artistry of the 32-year-old Soviet musician that has not been said before,” Howard Klein wrote in The Times in a review of a recital at Carnegie Hall that month. “His beautiful, silky tone, his effortless execution in diabolical passages, his restrained yet powerful emotional thrust, were evident and projected as stunningly as ever.”
Father and son often played together. When David Oistrakh made his American conducting debut in 1965, as leader of the Moscow Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, Igor was the soloist of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.
‘David Oistrakh conducted like a proud father,’ wrote Theodore Strongin in The Times, ‘giving his son all the leeway in the world and turning the last movement into a frenzied virtuoso flirtation. The sold-out audience loved it.”
After the death of his father in 1974, Igor Oistrakh sometimes performed with his son. He was often accompanied on performances by his wife, the pianist Natalia Zertsalova, and critics often wrote about their like-mindedness.
“You can feel they weigh every sentence,” wrote James Allen in The Scotsman, a review of a 1999 performance at the Music Hall in Aberdeen, Scotland, “making minimal adjustments, effortlessly setting contrasts of tone and texture.”
Igor Davidovich Oistrakh was born on April 27, 1931 to David and Tamara Ivanovna Oistrakh in Odessa, Ukraine. He studied violin when he was 6. The household was, of course, immersed in music, and young Igor witnessed bits of history, including the time when composer Aram Khachaturian dropped by in 1940 to unveil the violin concerto he had written for David Oistrakh.
“He came to play it on our piano,” Igor Oistrakh told The Times in 2001. “He didn’t take off his overcoat. He wasn’t even at the piano. He just played, very vigorously. It was so loud that my great-great-grandmother, my father’s grandmother, was startled awake from her nap.”
mr. Oistrakh studied at the Central Music School and then at the State Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. In 1949 he won the top prize at an international youth violin competition in Budapest and in 1952 he won the international Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition in Poland.
He made his western debut at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1953 and continued to perform around the world during the Cold War. International tensions occasionally broke into his concerts, as in 1971 when, The Times wrote, a performance at Manhattan’s Philharmonic Hall “after the first piece was interrupted by an unscheduled intermission as security forces searched the hall for intimidation devices that might planted by the groups that have protested the treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union.”
Mr. Oistrakh made extensive recordings and was a conductor and teacher, and held a position at the Moscow Conservatory in 1958. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, he became a professor at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels for a time. At his death he lived in Moscow.
His wife died in 2017. In addition to his son, he leaves a grandson.
Mr. Oistrakh’s physical resemblance to his father was so striking that Tamara Bernstein, who reviewed a 1992 performance with the Toronto Philharmonic for The Globe and Mail of Canada, began by saying, “It’s unnerving to say the least to say the least. see a late lamented violinist steps on stage to wild applause.”
In 1998, The Miami Herald asked him a question he must have asked often: Did he feel overshadowed by his father?
“I think I’ve had a wonderful career myself, playing with the best orchestras and conductors in the world,” he replied diplomatically, “and that I was lucky enough to have such a wonderful and wonderful father.”