Notes and Editorial Reviews
Leonid Kogan (vn); Rudolf Kempe, cond;
RAI SO, Turin;
Vasily Nebolsin, cond;
Moscow R/TV SO
IDI 6557, mono (75:44) Broadcast: 1/17/1958;
Leonid Kogan recorded Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in the studio with Kondrashin (Melodiya, 1957), Sylvestri (Columbia, November 16, 1959—I believe an earlier version with Vandernoot remained unissued), Svetlanov (Melodiya, 1966), and Pavel Kogan (Melodiya, 1981), and at least three live performances have been available (a video with Froment from March 12, 1966, appears on EMI 92835, 27:1). One of them, with Kempe from 1958, appears in a remastering by Danilo Prefumo in this program. He recorded Tchaikovsky’s Concerto twice, with Vandernoot (1956, Columbia, re-released in 2002 on CD as Testament 1224) and with Sylvestri (November 10 and 11, 1959, at about the same time as their recording of Beethoven’s Concerto for Columbia). The reading with Nebolsin from 1950 appears in Creighton’s
Discopedia of the Violin
and elsewhere without any indication of it’s being a live recording.
Kogan’s way with Beethoven in 1958 sounded even more authoritative than it did in 1957 (that slightly earlier recording, released in the United States on LP on Lion CL 40001 introduced me to Kogan, whom I hadn’t previously heard. Entries in the first movement’s exposition sound all the more explosive, and he played in general with the same classical repose. The engineers placed him farther forward (or at least the remastering makes it seem so) than he sounded on Lion’s LP, and his tone, by turns muscular and athletic, but always vibrant, sounds correspondingly more commanding. Kempe shared Kogan’s elevated, monumental concept of the first movement; and if less than perfectly unanimous orchestral playing mars the second movement, it couldn’t efface the lofty impression Kogan created. In the last movement (and the transitional cadenza), the snap and pop of Kogan’s bowing, caught close up, makes the thematic statements crackle with static electricity.
Tully Potter suggested in another context that Kogan always had to compete in Tchaikovsky’s Concerto not only with other Soviet violinists (most notably, perhaps, Oistrakh) but also with his 1950 recording with Nebolsin. Appearing very close to the microphone (even Isaac Stern couldn’t have complained about such treatment), the not-yet-quite-26-year-old Kogan played the Concerto with a combination of gutty sonorousness on the G string and pyrotechnical brilliance in the upper registers. Additions (Auer’s) and subtractions from the
notwithstanding, Kogan’s performance could serve as a standard for visceral communication (even in the relatively introspective slow movement) and a model for harnessing brilliance to plumb depth. Henry Roth mentioned this as his favorite among Kogan’s recordings of the Tchaikovsky Concerto, and echoes of its steely strength can be heard (and seen) in the videotaped reading by Kogan’s most successful student, Viktoria Mullova, with Maxim Shostakovich (on VHS, Sony C0344).
Kogan, a virtuosic Russian answer to Heifetz and a Paganini specialist, represented a strong contrast with the Soviet Union’s older grandmaster, David Oistrakh. But despite his transcendental mastery (which he shared with Heifetz and Milstein), virtuosity never precluded profundity, and hearing Kogan in Brahms’s or, as here, in Beethoven’s Concerto, should provide an instructive—and surprisingly favorable—comparison with Oistrakh’s versions of the same works. Urgently recommended, despite the aging recorded sound (though largely acceptable in these remasterings), to all kinds of listeners or collectors.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 61 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Leonid Kogan (Violin)
Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Turin
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 35 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Leonid Kogan (Violin)
Moscow Radio & TV Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1878; Russia
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