Leonid Kogan was less famous in the West than his competitor,
David Oistrakh. This was probably more to do with politics in the USSR
rather than any lesser worth, although he started later and died at the
tragically young age of only 58 in 1982. Coupled with this, he did not
like recording, particularly on film or TV because he always preferred
performing in relatively darkened surroundings.
He was a virtuoso of the first order, however, as these
rare recordings show. The Beethoven Concerto is the centre-piece of
this disc, and is ably accompanied by Louis de Froment. Particular sections
of great repose and beauty are to be found in the quiet parts of the
first movement and particularly the slow second movement. The Bach piece
played as an encore to the Concerto is superb.
In the remainder of the programme, various aspects
of Kogan’s playing is to be seen and heard. Throughout the programme,
he is seen standing almost motionless whilst playing, proving once and
for all, that it is not necessary to dance about the platform in order
to show an audience that you can play with feeling.
In the Handel, Debussy and Shostakovich, Kogan is partnered
by Andrei Mytnik, his favoured partner for many years up to 1963. As
always in the USSR, the Handel is partnered by piano rather than harpsichord,
so purists beware. The Debussy is played in the arrangement by Heifetz,
and the Shostakovich by Dmitri Tsiganov, the composer’s friend and leader
of the Beethoven Quartet. The Falla was arranged by the Polish violist
Pawel Kochanski. You will notice that the last song is omitted, and
this was as a result of Kochanski, not Kogan. The Brahms Hungarian Dance
No. 17 is arranged by that other formidable violinist, Fritz Kreisler.
For the Leclair, Kogan is joined by his wife, who was the daughter of
Emil Gilels, the pianist.
All in all, a wonderful DVD, well worth issuing. I
am sure it will give immense pleasure to all who hear it. Given the
vintage of the recordings, the video and (mono) sound quality is quite
tolerable without being of today’s highest fi.