Father and Son Duo – David and Igor Oistrakh!

Igor OistrakhI’ll reverse the order and begin with the son, Igor. As Concert Manager of the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra in the 1970’s, I invited him to be the soloist in a concert as part of its 51st Winter Concert Series beginning September 22, 1973 (program cover shown alongside.)

Igor was then 42 years old and already a world-class virtuoso violinist following in the footsteps of his renowned father, David.


[Igor and David often played together, deeply impressing their audiences with their near-perfect ensemble playing in works by Bach, Vivaldi and others. Indeed, it has been said that their duo sounds like the playing of a single violin.]

After the sold-out concert, Igor autographed a number  of programs including mine.


He then repaired to the Mayadas residence in Ballygunge, Calcutta, for a gala reception attended  by the Governor of West Bengal and other dignitaries.  When he arrived in the porch of the driveway, my wife Lolita and I were there to welcome him. He stepped out with his violin case in hand, and to help him exit gracefully, I took the case and slung it over my right shoulder, which almost suffered a dislocation! Apparently, to ensure the safety of his valuable instrument during his world travels, he had placed it in a custom-made solid Soviet steel casing weighing a ton! Nevertheless, his companion – also Igor, his accompanying pianist  – jumped in betwixt us and deftly removed the offending object. It took awhile before I was able to intermingle with the guests and handle a Scotch and soda without spilling its contents.

Igor Oistrakh and Azim Lewis

Igor Oistrakh and Azim at a post-concert gala reception held at Azim and Lolita’s residence in Calcutta, 1973

During the lively party, and through an interpreter, I was able to inform Igor that – purely by accident – I had met his father, David, 15 years earlier on my way to Bucharest for the 1958 Georges Enescu Music Festival. My flight from India to Rumania had without adequate warning to the passengers been diverted to Sofia, Bulgaria. It was just before landing there that the intercom came alive and we were informed that an important personage, who had missed his connection earlier due to bad weather, was being picked up. Who was it? Igor asked. David Oistrakh! I replied. His son split his sides in laughter.

David, it turned out, was attending the same Festival as I was, but he was due to perform the Bach Double Violin Concerto with Yehudi Menuhin the very next night, while I was merely an honored guest of the Festival. On landing at the airport, David was welcomed by Festival officials, and I was asked to hop into the Russian Zim limo as well. All’s well that ends well!  The performance I recalled later on was a unique blend of two striking personalities interacting with each other that resulted in an immensely satisfying musical experience.


For the record, David was born on September 30, 1908, so his birth anniversary is next week. In honor of that I end with a 1967 video of his playing a particular favorite of his – the riveting cadenza from Dmitri Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto, Op. 99. The composer in 1955 had dedicated the work to David, who gave the première performance in Leningrad on October the 29th. The cadenza gives considerable attention to an ostinato figure on which the passacaglia for the third movement (Andante) is built upon.

Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

4 thoughts on “Father and Son Duo – David and Igor Oistrakh!

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