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Russian violinist Mark Lubotsky is a self-professed disciple of his teacher, David Oistrakh, aiming to perpetuate Oistrakh’s ethos—the perfect balance of technique, emotion and intellect—in his own playing and teaching. His success is acknowledged in critical praise: ‘Lubotsky plays on the highest level of technical perfection and with wonderful power’, wrote the London Times in 1988, whilst the Financial Times in 1980 noted his ‘musical poise […] characterized by intellectual strength and emotional intensity’.

Oistrakh’s legacy is clear in Lubotsky’s noticeably similar sound: a clear, biting accentuation; tight, intense vibrato; and some of the peculiar integration of vibrato tone with use of open strings, although not to the detriment of tonal line (a charge made frequently by Henry Roth towards Soviet violinists). What impresses most is Lubotsky’s commitment. This makes for an exciting Schnittke Violin Sonata No. 1 (c.1994), with a particularly percussive tone in the second movement balanced by delicate playing elsewhere, whilst the Fuga for Solo Violin (1999) captures well Schnittke’s rugged twentieth-century reinterpretation of Bachian textures. Lubotstky knew Schnittke as a student, advising him on his Violin Concerto No 1, of which he gave the première; Schnittke later dedicated his Concerto No. 2 and three violin sonatas to his friend. Lubotsky has also championed the music of Estonian Arvo Pärt.

The neo-classical idea is echoed in Eduard Tubin’s Suite on Estonian Dances (recorded live, 1984), in which Lubotsky integrates as a prominent part of the overall orchestral texture. It is a mark of his stylistic subtlety that genuine classical or Baroque repertoire is differentiated quite carefully from twentieth-century neoclassicism; his 1987 unaccompanied Bach sonatas and partitas, for which he uses a replica Bach-era bow, are played not quite with a period sonority but with cleanliness and purity, clear articulation, little vibrato and absolute technical precision, delivering a tasteful modern performance.

The violin concertos of Estonian nationalist Tubin (1984) and Britten are strong readings testifying to Lubotsky’s interpretative confidence. His first British appearance was with the Britten at the 1970 BBC Proms and he also gave the Russian première with Kondrashin. Britten chose Lubotsky for the first recording, saying: ‘This is the performance I have been waiting for.’ The astringent, almost minimalist nature of both works suits Lubotsky’s tight, spare, sometimes hard tone well, and the depth and range of expression required by each composer is easily met by his seemingly bottomless well of tonal resource.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)

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4:27:05 PM, 31 May 2016
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