The Soviet Union was the fortunate possessor of two violinists
who could take on the varying demands of the Brahms and Khachaturian
concertos and bring to both works strikingly divergent qualities
and expressive depths. David Oistrakh, by some way the older,
brought warm-hearted, tonally rich, and masculine breadth. Leonid
Kogan, the young pretender, was the more tensile performer,
whose ethos was based on that of Heifetz. Through the studio
and live concert performances that survive, one can trace their
fascinating trajectory in these very different and artistically
very differing concertos.
Kogan recorded the Khachaturian in Boston with Pierre Monteux
in January 1958. Monteux is, I think we can all agree, not the
first chap to come to mind for this role. Indeed he didn’t
even know the work before the assignment, though this is not
something that has debarred other conductors, or even soloists
or quartets (say) from setting down outstanding performances.
Unfamiliarity brings insights in Monteux’s case. He brings
out colours that are occluded in other more deferential recordings;
and importantly, one doesn’t feel him holding back rhythmically
because of his lack of familiarity with the work or the idiom.
There’s no sign of caution. In fact if you check the surviving
performances Kogan gave with Kondrashin in Moscow in 1964 (on
Brilliant) and with the composer himself in Prague (in 1959,
just out in a fascinating double disc set on Supraphon), you’ll
find that Monteux is right up the mark. Especially notable is
the swaggering Boston brass, on especially distinguished form,
and the sense of swing that Monteux generates in the glamorous
finale. Kogan, it seems superfluous to add, plays resplendently
The Brahms was recorded with Kondrashin and the Philharmonia
in London in February 1959. This is a well-known recording.
EMI’s transfer on their Kogan Profile twofer 
retained quite a large amount of high level hiss. Guild has
tamed that at the slight expense of room ambience - the ‘room’
being the Abbey Road studios. Kogan gives his famously brisk
and nonchalant reading, though so assured and sophisticated
is his rhythmic sense that it never sounds especially rushed.
The transitions are gauged with huge assurance and musicality,
whilst Kogan’s tone is concentrated and subtle but seldom,
if ever, as personalised as his hero Heifetz. The Philharmonia
offers hugely distinguished support under the direction of one
of the best accompanists in the business.
This excellent coupling has been well annotated.
Masterwork Index: Brahms