> Sibelius - Berg - Oleg Kagan [RB]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Violin Concerto
Alban BERG (1885-1935)

Violin Concerto
Oleg Kagan (violin)
Sibelius: Finnish Radio SO/Tauno Hannikainen, rec Helsinki, 8 Dec 1965
Berg: Vienna SO/Hans Vonk, rec Bregenzer Festspiele, 11 Aug 1985
LIVE CLASSICS LCL 143 [58.43]


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Oleg Kagan is not to be confused with that other Russian master violinist Leonid Kogan. Kagan who died in 1990 at the age of only 44 has a considerable following among connoisseurs. Amongst his most effective and eloquent advocates is Professor Maria E Michel-Beyerle. Her company, Live Classics, has created a Kagan Edition which draws on radio station and Melodiya sound materials. Full details are given on the website detailed below.

The Kagan Sibelius has considerable documentary value and must have been held in considerable affection by the Kagan family. A native of the extreme East of the USSR (the city of Sakhalin) his family moved to the other extreme, to Riga in Latvia in his early years and his outstanding musical skills took him to Moscow to study with Boris Kuznetsov and then with David Oistrakh. The Sibelius tape, sourced from Finnish Radio, enshrines the very performance that won him the 1965 Sibelius Competition. It reveals the nineteen year old Kagan as a player with slender tone, petulant attack and phrasing alive to variety and emphasis. I am not sure that this is a recording that would rank among the top ten but it is a good performance. The odd roughnesses (00.36 in track 3) contrast with the virtual silence of the Helsinki audience - there are a few coughs. We must also wonder at the low level of hiss - vestigial at worst. The original tape and transfer engineering was accomplished with exemplary care. It is satisfying also to hear Hannikainen conducting the Finnish Radio orchestra. His Sibelian credentials had already been established by 1965 as his World Record Club recordings of the Second and Fifth symphonies (try EMI-Serpahim 7243 5 69134 2) testify. In the 1950s he recorded the Fourth Symphony and the Lemminkainen Legends for Melodiya. For Everest he made an LP with the LSO that had even wider currency: Tapiola with the Violin Concerto taken by the temperamental Tossy Spivakovsky.

Kagan twenty years later had developed a much more refined and succulent tone. The Berg Concerto is given a wonderfully poised and moving performance. All credit to Hans Vonk for his direction of the Vienna Symphony. They handle the diaphanous orchestral textures with masterly sensitivity. I do not recall having been quite so moved by the calming susurration of those tolling opening bars. This strikes me as a very special performance.

After hearing this I was tempted to hold onto the other Kagan discs I had requested. In fact they went to Jonathan Woolf whose knowledge of the violinist world makes him a much more fitting and authoritative reviewer.

This disc is satisfying for the Sibelius and outstanding for the Berg.

Rob Barnett

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