Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D Op 61 (1806) [43:50]
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 (1805-06) [33:23]
Leonid Kogan (violin)
Hans Richter-Haaser (piano)
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts Du Conservatoire/Constantin Silvestri (Violin Concerto)
Philharmonia Orchestra/István Kertesz
rec. November 1959, Salle Wagram, Paris (Violin Concerto) and July 1960, Studio No.1, Abbey Road, London (Piano Concerto)

Both these LP recordings are well-known, the Kogan a little better so than the Hans Richter-Haaser, and both have been reissued on CD. The proximity in recording date – 1959 and 1960 – makes them worthy disc-mates, though other approaches could have been taken. The more natural route is a disc devoted to a single performer, and this has already happened in Kogan’s case several times. EMI’s own Kogan twofer includes this recording and adds concertos by Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Lalo (7 67732 2). Kogan and Silvestri’s recording has disciplined strength and great executant purity. Kogan plays at all times with refinement and perfect intonation, his focus wholly musical and devoid of show, and as ever enshrining pellucid beauty of tone. His saturnine somewhat hatchet-faced look – which belied the indisputable poetry of his playing - lead to a mistaken belief that his playing was cold. In fact it marries near-perfect technical address with an often rapt quality – his vibrato, under perfect control, remains on the silvery side, seldom broadening into an endemic oscillation. Thus the slow movement is seraphic in his hands, never opulent, but taut. The finale is buoyant and full of sparkling touches. In that respect Silvestri complements him well throughout. The playing is not as personalised as some but that is not to imply a sense of reserve. The transfer is a good one, fortunately. EMI’s retains slightly more room ambience.

The companion concerto is Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto where Richter-Haaser is accompanied by István Kertesz, who directs the Philharmonia. It remains true that the pianist’s collaboration with Karajan in Brahms’s Second Concerto is the better-remembered but in many ways this Beethoven recording is the more perfectly realised. Richter-Haaser’s musical maturity and expressive insights are everywhere apparent. His is an unusually deft and noble reading, in which poetic elegance is in even greater evidence than in Kogan’s Violin Concerto. The opening piano statements are rapt but inwardly half-spoken and this sets the template for the performance to come; it doesn’t lack for propulsion where necessary but is always carefully calibrated toward the interior. Whilst the conductor’s natural penchant may have been for a more extrovert reading in which the Apollonian and Olympian were more conventionally balanced, he proves a masterfully accommodating musician throughout.

Should that latter quality be important the contemporaneous Gilels-Ludwig recording is easily available. Otherwise, Richter-Haaser admirers will know that both this Fourth and the Emperor were transferred by Testament over a decade ago, though I’ve not had access to it for comparative purposes. In any case the desirability of this disc will presumably depend on whether one wants a single-artist disc or, as here, one that casts the net more widely.

Jonathan Woolf

Masterwork Index: Piano concerto 4 ~~ Violin concerto


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