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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in G, Op. 78 (1879) [25:47]
Violin Sonata No. 2 in A, Op. 100 (1886) [18:21]
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 (1888) [20:48]
Hungarian Dances (arranged by Joseph Joachim): No.1 in G minor [3:12]; No.2 in D minor [4:11]; No.4 in B minor [3:26]; No. 17 in F minor [3:07]
Leonid Kogan (violin)
Andrei Mytnik (piano)
rec. Moscow 1955 and 1959 (Sonatas Nos.1 and 2) London 1956 (Sonata No.2) and live 1951-55 (Dances)
ARCHIPEL ARPCD 0355 [79:38]
 


Kogan can be bad news for a critic. Staring at my pretty much blank piece of paper after eighty minutes of beautiful violin playing – so unforced, natural sounding, so perfect a conjunction of tone and projection, so digitally immaculate – one wonders what one can add, beyond the instruction to listen immediately if one has not already done so.
 
Brahms-Kogan generally spells the violin concerto. The Mytnik-accompanied sonata recordings are less often encountered though still not rare. It’s rather baffling that they didn’t record a commercial studio cycle as the Third Sonata is derived from a concert given in the Grand Hall of Moscow Conservatoire, though you won’t find that in Archipel’s customarily non-existent booklet information. You might be aware of a later Grand Hall performance of the Sonata in G, which Melodiya put out in their voluminous Kogan twofer collection in the dying days of the LP.
 
The Kogan-Mytnik was a real duo not a chauffeur and master arrangement. Despite the fact that Mytnik is naturally not as well remembered as his illustrious partner he makes for an assertive and combative presence, all to the good for ensemble work. Their collective expressive control is always impressive, Kogan’s multi-faceted command of style and timbre proving intensely moving in the finale of the First Sonata – as it often is not.
 
The tempo for the sonata in A is just right and the amabile is perfectly conveyed. Kogan heightens feeling through the subtlest use of portamento and colour: the intensification of vibrato in which he engages in the finale is of an exalted kind, and the lyrical beauty he finds is wondrous. The Op. 108 sonata does suffer from some problems. There’s a slight lack of clarity and definition in the piano sound and the aura generally is somewhat scuffy; there are some coughs. The playing remains majestic. It’s flowingly and longingly heartfelt, buoyant rhythmically and with a real agitato when called for. Brahms fully in the round. To complete the pleasure there are four Hungarian Dances, the last of which however is hollowly recorded. 
 
There’s a claimed date of 1955 for the First Sonata but this is surely the 1959 Melodiya/Columbia/Angel of long renown. The discs have some hiss but they seem to have been moderately well dealt with, albeit greater restorative work could have been carried out. As for the playing it remains worthy of the highest respect and the greatest possible admiration.
 
Jonathan Woolf   
 

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