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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 12, No. 3 [18:52]
Violin Sonata in F major, Op. 24 "Spring" [22:04]
Violin Sonata in A major, Op. 47 "Kreutzer" [32:55]
Leonid Kogan, violin
Emil Gilels, piano
Recorded 29 March 1964, Leningrad, USSR. ADD.
DOREMI DHR-7845 [74:03]

Doremi continue to mine the depths of historical recordings. In recent years they have brought to light a number of fascinating live concert performances that might have otherwise been lost to posterity. I have no idea how they manage to find such a treasure trove of magnificent music-making, but their efforts pay off splendidly and we the listeners are the better for it.

This disc is a find indeed, as it is the only extant recording of Leonid Kogan and Emil Gilels together. In fact this is a document of the only time they ever performed together ... period. I was just over a month old when this concert occurred back in 1964, but listening to this recording makes me long for what it might have been to have heard these two superb artists together.

Opening with the fairly early Op. 12 sonata, Kogan and Gilels seem a perfect match as they bring off this light-hearted performance. Balance between the musicians is superb and both play with that rather robust abandon that is almost stereotypical of Russian players. The glory here and in the other two works as well is how achingly beautifully Kogan can make a slow movement. There is such a richness to his tone, such a passion in the playing that one is immediately lost in the spell, forgetting time and place.

The airy "Spring" sonata receives an ebullient performance, full of the kinds of emotional rushes that the composer himself must have felt when he was out and about on his beloved woodlands jaunts. I particularly loved the all-too-brief but ever wonderful scherzo. These two polish it off with such control and ease.

The Kreutzer is a meatier work all around, and the seriousness of the performers comes through with abundance. Both artists get to show off their considerable techniques, but bravura for its own sake is kept in check.

In short, you get a once-in-a-lifetime portrait of two very great and even somewhat enigmatic artists at the top of their form. What a shame that fate never brought them together again, but what a gift these performances are. As is typical of this label, documentation is scarce. I cannot for the life of me understand why a company that takes such pains to find these treasures does not go the extra mile to provide more detail about the artists and some program notes on the music. Then again, these discs of this kind seem to be marketed toward connoisseurs who probably know more than enough about the music already. Sound quality is excellent; some hacking from the audience but not enough to be bothersome. The occasional sound of a page turn from Gilels adds a sense of being there to the whole experience.

Highly recommended especially to collector types.

Kevin Sutton

see also review by Jonathan Woolf



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