S0067. OLEG KAGAN, SVIATOSLAV RICHTER, VICTOR TRETYAKOV & VASSILY LOBANOV: Medtner, Schnittke, Prokoviev & Webern. (Germany) Classics Live LCL 191, Live Performances, 1981-89, Moscow. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 4015512001915
“Oleg Kagan was one of the foremost Russian violinists from the latter half of the twentieth century. While he developed a reputation on his own, many know him for his collaborations with pianist Sviatoslav Richter, as well as for his chamber music activity with a clutch of Soviet artists that included his first wife pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja, second wife cellist Natalia Gutman, pianist Elisso Virssaladze, and violist Yuri Bashmet. Virtuoso violinist David Oistrakh was an ardent admirer of his pupil Kagan, arranging for him to record all of Mozart's concertos while serving as his conductor in the enterprise. Though Kagan played much Russian music, including works by Shostakovich and Schnittke, he focused heavily, at least in the recording studio, on the Germanic sphere: Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms. Many of his numerous recordings were reissued on the German label Live Classics, EMI, and Olympia.
Kagan was born in the Eastern Soviet city of Sakhalin on November 22, 1946. His father was a physician with a passion for music. Young Oleg grew up in Riga (Latvia), studying first with Joachim Braun at the local conservatory, then with Boris Kuznetsov, who would eventually take him to Moscow for study.
Kagan won first prize at the 1965 Sibelius Competition and second prize at the 1969 Tchaikovsky. After Kuznetsov's death Kagan immediately began studies with David Oistrakh and soon found himself in a circle of friends that included Sviatoslav Richter, with whom he would collaborate in numerous concerts. Between 1975 and 1983 they gave a series of acclaimed Mozart sonata recitals, many recorded and later issued.
Throughout the 1970s and '80s Kagan's reputation grew as he extended his repertory to include Messiaen (Quartet for the End of Time), Ravel (Duo Sonata for Violin and Cello), contemporary Soviet composer Sofia Gubaidulina (Rejoice!), and works from the Second Viennese School.
As Kagan seemed to be approaching the zenith of his career he became seriously ill in 1989. He had several surgeries, but struggled to remain active, touring Europe when he could and arranging festivals. Though his doctors at a hospital in Lübeck, Germany, declared him too sick to be released, Kagan discharged himself to appear at his final festival, in Kreuth am Tegernsee, Bavaria. Shortly after giving two Mozart concerts there, where he had to be helped on-stage, he died on July 15, 1990, not yet 44.”
- Robert Cummings, allmusic.com
“There were quite a number of great pianists in the Twentieth Century. There are even great pianists in the Twenty-First Century. But Richter stands alone, the purity and passion of his devotion to music, of his unique genius, obvious in every note. This was a man who said, in all modesty, just play the notes on the page. Yet he was a man able to transmit the spiritual essence of music, a man able to leap the chasm between self and other, between aesthetics and life. What a tale he might have told were he inclined to the verbal. But he was not. His comments about his music making were most often along the lines of, ‘I played well’, or, ‘I played poorly’. Neuhaus instantly recognized him, his first true genius pupil, when Richter arrived at the Moscow Conservatory at the unusually old age of 22. ‘He makes a nearly perfect interpretation as soon as he sees a work. I have never seen any other pianist that has wider artistic horizon than him’. But I don’t imagine Richter cared one way or the other. The music was all that ever mattered.
Someone described Richter as a sort of chameleon, taking on the hues of the music he’s performing. This is apt. I remember the first time I heard him play Grieg’s Lyric Pieces. It is the sweetest, simplest, most honest and heart felt playing of this wonderful music, and this from the man I had always considered the greatest Beethoven exponent on record. It was the same with Bach’s ’Well Tempered Clavier’. And with Schubert’s sonatas: absolute truthfulness to the music. Can you imagine a chef who is a master of every cuisine?
As for the music, he makes one use words like ‘greatest’. He washes away considerations and preconceptions through the sheer power and truthfulness of his playing. It is particularly difficult talking about a Richter performance. I recall a Russian expert speaking of Richter in terms of a spiritual teacher. Yes. That is closer to the truth than anything I’ve said.”
- Russell Lichter, THE STEREO TIMES, Jan., 2005