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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 41 in C, K551 Jupiter (1788) [28:59]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D, Op.61 (1806) [42:28]
Leonid Kogan (violin)
New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Hans Rosbaud
rec. live, 26 November 1960, Carnegie Hall, NYC

How many performances of Kogan’s Beethoven Concerto does one need? I’ve wondered aloud about this before in a review, but it is still the question to ask, as more examples keep appearing. On the other hand, as I have yet to encounter a performance of his – live or in the studio – that is anything less than wonderful, I’m going to take the safe reviewers’ position of ‘enough is never enough’. His consistency never suggests routine; his tonal resources never become generic. No matter the conductor, often but not always Russian, Kogan’s playing touches Olympian heights, though never ones of Olympian detachment.

Let’s consider this New York performance with Hans Rosbaud. It was given before a somewhat bronchial audience in November 1960. The year before he’d set it down in the studio with Silvestri, and this is the recording that has probably gained the greatest currency. There are few modifications here from that Paris LP; slightly broader here in New York in the first two movements, though not in such a way that the contours of the concerto are in any way alien to a Kogan-listener. Kogan’s approach is characteristically unruffled, and not overly personalised. Rosbaud takes a scruff-of-the-neck approach to tuttis, and brings out horn and wind harmonies in a most striking fashion. Indeed, remarkably, some of the little phrases sound like proto-Mahlerian themes. The slow movement is rapt as ever, with real fluidity of bowing and tight trills. The finale sets off impetuously, and there are delicious dovetailing moments between Kogan and the winds. The sound is good, though obviously it’s in mono, and there’s a layer of residual tape or other hiss. It didn’t bother me in the slightest.

I always enjoy listening to Rosbaud who is, with Schuricht, a conductor who thrived on live performance. His Jupiter Symphony has been captured on disc elsewhere, and also – like here – live. It’s powerful but not marmoreal. The New York brass is given its head but there is sufficient sectional discipline to convey its weight. Indeed Rosbaud’s reading of the slow movement of the symphony touches almost on the tragic, and is the absolute high point in the performance.

Kogan and Beethoven make, for me, an almost perfect match, proved once more by this excellent live performance. Add Rosbaud’s authoritative and sometimes novel voicings here, and his impressive Mozart, and you have a disc to savour.

Jonathan Woolf



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