David Oistrakh was a giant among 20th-century musicians, a violinist whose calm, unruffled demeanour belied both his genius as a performer and the particular circumstances of his life and career as a Soviet artist. With the warm, powerful tone that he obtained from the instrument, and the contained virtuosity of his playing he represented a peak of the Russian violin school, and he was an inspiration to numerous contemporary Soviet composers, including Prokofiev and Khachaturian. At his New York début in 1951 he gave the first US performance of Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto, and he played two movements from Prokofiev’s Second Violin Sonata at the composer’s funeral in 1953.
1913–26 : Studies with Pyotr Stolyarsky from the age of five until his graduation (violin and viola) at the Odessa State Conservatory.
1920–29 : Extensive touring throughout the Soviet Union; débuts in Leningrad (1928) and Moscow (1929).
1927 : Glazunov invites him to play his Violin Concerto in Kiev.
1934 : Obtains a teaching post at the Moscow Conservatoire.
1937 : First prize in the Ysaÿe Competition in Brussels.
1939–45 : Plays for front-line soldiers and factory workers, sometimes under difficult conditions.
1945 : Yehudi Menuhin visits him in Moscow. They become friends.
1949 : First appearance in the West: Helsinki.
1954 : Named People’s Artist of the USSR.
1953–55 : Débuts in France, West Germany, Britain and the USA.
1955–74 : Busy performing at home and abroad, teaching, recording and later also conducting.
1960 : Receives the Lenin Prize.
1964 : Suffers a heart attack, but keeps on working intensively.
1967 : Shostakovich dedicates his Violin Concerto No. 2 to him.