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Rudolf Kempe – Unpublished
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major Op.61 (1806) [42:19]
Leonore III – Overture in C major Op.72b [14:27]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Siegfried Idyll (1870) [19:41] *
Leonid Kogan (violin)
Turin RAI Symphony Orchestra/Rudolf Kempe
Rome RAI Symphony Orchestra/Rudolf Kempe *
rec. Turin, April 1956; Rome, 1955 (Wagner)
ARCHIPEL ARPCD 0349 [76:33]
 


How many Kogan Beethoven Concerto recordings do you need? The 1959 Silvestri is the most widely, internationally, known and has been available in reissues over the years. The Moscow/Nebolsin is a less easily encountered artefact and the USSR/Kondrashin and USSR/Svetlanov usually turn up on Russian reissue programmes. The later recording directed by his son, Pavel, was made live in Moscow. There’s now a previously unearthed live recording with the USSR State TV and Radio Symphony Orchestra under Gennady Rozhdestvensky on a recent Brilliant ten CD box devoted to the violinist.  But on the face of it a teaming of Kogan with Kempe looks promising. The recording date of 1956 is certainly promising as it well predates the years of Kogan’s sad decline.
 
Archipel announces this as “unpublished” and I’ve certainly not come across either the concerto or the ancillary performances here before. But there’s a catch. For once a budget label owns up to an imperfection on the back of the jewel case; there’s a “very light drop-out in the first movement of the Violin Concerto and Leonore III”. Actually there’s a bloody great drop out in the first movement and one ruinous one followed quickly by what sounds like a repeated groove, or tape excision and poor repair, in the second that destroys all semblance of lyric ease. I guarantee you this; you’ll be reluctant to play this otherwise splendid performance again once you know they’re coming up. My tolerance level for imperfect recordings is very high but these are infuriating problems. Added to this Archipel – or someone - has cut off the concert ambience between movements so no sense of continuity has been preserved there either.
 
The orchestra is on reasonably good form. Wind tuning is not on the money and Kogan himself very occasionally rushes his bars in the first movement. Still, he is very close to the microphone and we can enjoy his charismatic playing. It’s not an ideal performance, even were it perfectly intact, but it does preserve an otherwise undocumented meeting between Kogan and Kempe.
 
The Leonore blip is not as disruptive as those in the Concerto. There is some untidiness once more but there’s also a sturdiness that is attractive. The sound however is rather hissy, there are coughs; there’s a good clarinet principal. The Siegfried Idyll comes from Rome in 1955. As one might expect Kempe directs with cool elegance and control, eloquent all the more for not seeking to make points, simply to unfold.
 
So I’d better return to my opening question. Given the state of the market and the deficiencies of the recorded sound, and despite the cheapness of the product, how many Kogan Beethoven Concerto performances do you really need?
 
Jonathan Woolf  

 

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