S0213. LEONID KOGAN & EMIL GILELS: Sonata #3 in E-flat; Spring Sonata #5 in F; Kreutzer Sonata #9 in A
(all Beethoven). (Canada) Doremi 7845, Live Performance, 29 March, 1964, Leningrad. - 723724694729
“David Oistrakh’s performances of the [Kreutzer] that I’ve heard, though profoundly and powerfully conceived, don’t generate Kogan and Gilels’ crackling voltage….even after the effects of the unusually close recording and the potentiating effect of the live audience (which must have inspired both Kogan and Gilels) have been filtered out, the residual supercharge could light a city for a year.”
- Robert Maxham, FANFARE, Sept./Oct., 2005
“One of the twentieth century's greatest violinists, Leonid Kogan was less widely known than his somewhat older contemporary David Oistrakh, but no less a first-tier artist. More concentrated in tonal focus and with a quicker vibrato than Oistrakh and others of the Russian school, Kogan was avowedly a man of his time. His espousal of the four-octave scale for exercises assured the infallibility of his technique by strengthening his fingering hand in the upper positions. Although he died at age 58, he had amassed a discography that remains as a commanding legacy. Although his were not especially musical parents, Kogan conceived a fascination for the violin by age three. At six, he began lessons with Philip Yampolsky, a pupil of Leopold Auer. When Kogan's family moved to Moscow when he was ten, he began studies with Abram Yampolsky (no relation to Philip, but another Auer disciple). Kogan progressed through the Central School of Music, then the Moscow Conservatory, where he trained from 1943 to 1948. Postgraduate studies at the conservatory occupied him from 1948 until 1951. At age 12, Kogan was heard by violinist Jacques Thibaud, who predicted a great career for him. Although his parents resisted exploiting their son as a prodigy, Kogan made his début at 17 and performed in many Soviet venues while still a student. Wider recognition came when Kogan shared first prize at the 1947 Prague World Youth Festival. In 1951, he won first prize at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. Oistrakh, who was a member of the jury (along with Thibaud), thereafter came to regard Kogan as a colleague, while Kogan closely observed his elder associate during the latter's evening classes for other students. After teaching at the Moscow Conservatory and playing a busy schedule of concerts in the Soviet Union over the next few years, Kogan made his first appearances in Paris and London in 1955, following those with a tour of South America in 1956 and another of the United States in 1957. Less gregarious than Oistrakh, Kogan was not as aggressively promoted abroad by the Soviet government. After being named People's Artist in 1964, Kogan received the Lenin Prize in 1965.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Emil Gilels, one of the world's great pianists and, in 1955, the first Soviet musician to perform in the United States since Sergei Prokofiev in 1921, was a stocky man with a shock of sandy hair and short, stubby fingers, uncharacteristic for a pianist. But his greatness was widely recognized. Howard Taubman of THE NEW YORK TIMES proclaimed him a ‘great pianist’ on the occasion of his New York debut at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 4, 1955. After his first New York recital a week later, Harold C. Schonberg invoked the phrase ‘little giant’, the term the critic W. J. Henderson had used for the pianist and composer Eugen d'Albert at the turn of the century.
Mr. Gilels continued to receive such encomiums throughout his career, both in the Soviet Union, where he had taught at the Moscow Conversatory since 1938, and in the West. Altogether, he made 14 American tours, the last in 1983. On the occasion of his last New York recital, on April 16, 1983, Donal Henahan wrote in The Times of his ‘formidable, high-finish technique and beautiful control of nuance’.
Mr. Gilels led the procession of Soviet artists of his generation to the West; others who emerged shortly after his debut were David Oistrakh, the violinist; Sviatoslav Richter, the pianist, and Mstislav Rostropovich, the cellist. Mr. Rostropovich later became an outspoken dissident, but the others remained honored Russian citizens. Together, this group suggested that the traditions of Romantic music-making had not died out in the relatively isolated Russian musical world. ‘The precepts of Leopold Auer still prevailed in violin pedagogy, and the pianists stemmed straight from Anton Rubinstein and the Leschetizky school’, Mr. Schonberg wrote in 1979, on the occasion of one of Mr. Gilels's periodic returns to the American concert scene.
But especially in his later years, Mr. Gilels was a more Classically inclined pianist than, say, Mr. Richter. In 1970 he even offered an all-Mozart recital at Philharmonic (now Avery Fisher) Hall, which Allen Hughes of THE TIMES called ‘superbly wrought’.
Basically, however, Mr. Gilels was a big, rich-toned pianist who could ride triumphantly over an orchestra in the mainstream Romantic piano concertos - those of Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms and Tchaikovsky, all of which he recorded. He wasn't always note-perfect, but he commanded his repertory with an elan that made such flaws seem insignificant. And unlike some powerhouse virtuosos, he had a poetic gift that enlivened slow movements.
Emil Grigoryevich Gilels was born on Oct. 19, 1916, in Odessa, a Ukrainian city on the Black Sea that was also the birthplace of Mr. Oistrakh and Nathan Milstein, another leading violinist. He entered the Odessa Conservatory in 1931, and the next year he met the Polish pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who was visiting the city on a tour; the two remained friends until Mr. Rubinstein's death in 1982.
In 1933, Mr. Gilels won a nationwide Soviet piano competition. He graduated from the Odessa Conservatory in 1935 and took an advanced degree from the Moscow Conservatory in 1936 with G. G. Neuhaus. In 1938, he won first prize in an international piano competition in Brussels.
Mr. Gilels was scheduled to make his American debut in 1939, at the New York World's Fair, but the outbreak of war prevented that. In 1942 he joined the Communist Party, and his party loyalty sometimes provoked anti-Soviet demonstrations at his American concerts. There were fears of such incidents at his last recital here in 1983, with police reinforcements, but the concert proceeded uneventfully. Mr. Gilels received many prestigious Soviet awards, including the Stalin Prize, the Lenin Prize and two Orders of Lenin, the nation's highest honor.
His American debut in 1955 was preceded by several European engagements, starting in Italy in 1951. The first American tour, at the height of the Cold War, was made possible by the surge of good feeling following the Geneva Conference, and by the efforts of the violinist Yehudi Menuhin in obtaining American visas for Mr. Gilels and Mr. Oistrakh.”
- John Rockwell, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 16 Oct., 1985