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Leonid Kogan – Volume 1
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto Op.77 (1877) [37:22]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major K216 (1775) [24:38]
Leonid Kogan (violin)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Pierre Monteux (Brahms)
New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Dimitri Mitropoulos (Mozart)
rec. live, 11 January 1958 (Brahms); live, 2 February 1958 (Mozart)
DOREMI DHR7900 [63:48]
Experience Classicsonline

This clearly marks the beginning of a Kogan series from Doremi. This first entrant conjoins two concertos favoured by Kogan – the Brahms and the G major Mozart. These two were staples of his repertoire and indeed he chose to make his American debut with the former in Boston in January 1958. This is that very performance.
Numerous recordings have survived of both these works, which makes the acquisition of this pairing a specialised one. If you’re a Kogan maven you’ll have the Philharmonia/Kondrashin or Bruck-directed accounts. You may have the Moscow Kondrashin and be acquainted with another live example under the same conductor. Only completists and the insanely driven will surely have them all, topped by the live USSR/Eliasberg from 1953. The list for the competing versions of the Mozart is if anything even longer. If you have more than three consider yourself fixated; Silvestri, Ackermann, Sanderling (in Leningrad), Eliasberg again, Rozhdestvensky and the Moscow/Barshai.
The Brahms is prefaced by the tones of the patrician Bostonian radio announcer -  broadcasting on 89.7 megacycles, New Englanders please note. Kogan’s performance is purposeful, controlled and characteristically eloquent – his lean meat tone contrasting well with his colleague Oistrakh’s beefier engagement. It helps that Kogan is accompanied by an underused specialist – Monteux - whose Brahmsian lineage was consistently overlooked. When he did record the concerto it was with Szeryng. Tempo wise Kogan cleaves close to all known survivals - he was amazingly consistent; only in the slow movement with Eliasberg did he speed things up. The aristocratic dead-centre purity of his playing compels the highest admiration and there are plenty of intoxicating lyric moments and finger-position changes. Monteux’s balancing of orchestral choirs is terrific too. Questions of the exploration of supporting wind chording, viola texture and the like are raptly disseminated by Monteux – try his marshalling of the slow movement for a mini-master class in unostentatious control – and the finale is a vibrant collaboration, full of energy. Good sound too.
This can’t be said of the dimly recorded Mozart with Mitropoulos. The constriction is an unavoidable limitation. This is a relatively big-boned performance, at least orchestrally. We can hear a definite Heifetz slide in the second movement but Kogan varies his articulation finely in the finale. That said this is more of a historical footnote to Kogan’s established discography. It’s always instructive to hear Mitropoulos but this doesn’t add much to the known order of things, not least because of the cloudy sonics.
There’s a small biographical note about Kogan but nothing about the performances or the context in which these live performances should be seen and heard … and measured. But Kogan admirers should most certainly hear the Monteux-led Brahms for its collaborative excellence.
Jonathan Woolf

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