S0741. LEONID KOGAN, w.Antal Dorati Cond. Stuttgart Radio S.O.: Violin Concerto in D (Beethoven), Live Performance, 20 Jan., 1972; w.Ferdinand Leitner Cond. RAI S.O., Milano: Violin Concerto #2 in D, K.211 (Mozart), Live Performance, 1974. [Kogan's sublime performance of the Beethoven Concerto is about as close to Nirvana any of us is apt to hear! A revelation of taste and profound sensitivity!] (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-788. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Leonid Kogan, captured here in concert playing Beethoven and Mozart in the Seventies, seemed preditably to take second place in the minds of many when it came to Soviet-era violinists. David Oistrakh was the most visible, and most visibly promoted, by Moscow officials. Perhaps the reason is that Kogan was Jewish. At any rate, for those of us who do not need to rank artists as if they were athletes finishing in first or second place, there is as much to admire in Kogan as there is in Oistrakh; they were very different players - Oistrakh the more romantic interpreter, with a juicier tone and a more sensuous style of playing, Kogan the leaner and perhaps more muscular performer. Kogan’s early death from a heart attack at the age of 58 in 1982 probably robbed us at minimum of another decade of his art.
He openly admired Jascha Heifetz, and one can hear an influence in his playing. While Kogan’s tone certainly does not lack beauty, there is a focused intensity and leanness to it much as with Heifetz. While he could linger over a phrase (and does in the slow movements of both concertos) one’s overall impression is of great energy, forward motion, and rhythmic intensity. Another inescapable impression is of complete mastery of the instrument. There is hardly a single slip or moment of questionable intonation in these two live performances.
Kogan also was open about his preference for live performances over studio recordings, and to my knowledge neither of these two readings has been issued before. They are masterful. The Mozart suffers just a bit from less than pristine orchestral playing, although Ferdinand Leitner provides sensitive accompaniment. I am not aware of any other recording of this particular Mozart concerto by Kogan (he apparently preferred the Third), so this is a major addition to his discography. Taut shaping by soloist and conductor makes the performance sound appropriate even in today’s HIP world.
The Beethoven, however, is the major work here, and it is to my mind the finest available Kogan performance. I know two studio recordings he made, with Kirill Kondrashin and Konstantin Silvestri (I am not familiar with two other accounts under Yevgeny Svetlanov and Pavel Kogan, his son, the latter from 1981). This new addition from 1972 under Doráti is more consistently engaging from beginning to end than the two recordings I know. He and Doráti seem to be on the same wavelength, and the concentration they bring to the Larghetto is supreme. Kogan’s virtuosity is plain in the ease with which he plays, but there is never a sense of virtuosity for its own sake. The music sings and dances with a completely natural flow, and there is a sense of conversation between soloist and orchestra that is the rarely achieved ideal.
Kogan plays the Joachim cadenzas in the Beethoven (I fear I am not enough of an expert on cadenzas to identify those used in the Mozart). The Mozart recording is a touch on the dry side (as is typical of RAI studio broadcasts), but the balance and ambience in the Beethoven are completely natural and I recommend this one with unreserved enthusiasm.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
"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 debut 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 1958. 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.
On 10 January, 1958 Kogan made an auspicious American debut playing the Brahms Violin Concerto with Pierre Monteux and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Kogan had a repertoire of over 18 concerti and a number of concerti by modern composers were dedicated to him.
Leonid Kogan is considered to have been one of the greatest representatives of the Soviet School of violin playing, an emotionally romantic elan and melodious filigree of technical detail. A brilliant and compelling violinist, he shunned publicity.
Leonid Kogan married Elizabeth Gilels (sister of pianist Emil Gilels), also a concert violinist. His son, Pavel Kogan became a famous violinist and conductor; his daughter, Nina Kogan, is a concert pianist and became the accompanist and sonata partner of her father at an early age. Kogan died of a heart attack in the city of Mytishchi, while travelling by train between Moscow and Yaroslavl to a concert he was to perform with his son. Two days before, he had played the Beethoven Violin Concerto in Vienna.
Kogan used two Guarneri del Gesu violins: the 1726 ex-Colin and the 1733 ex-Burmester. He used French bows by Dominique Peccatte."
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
"Antal Dorati, an internationally known conductor who championed the music of Bartok and who led the National Symphony in Washington from 1970 to 1977, was a warm, hearty conductor, not so concerned with refined interpretive detail as with vital, sensible statements of the music at hand. Aside from his wide-ranging career in concert life, he made more than 500 recordings, many of them sonic showpieces, which further spread his fame.
Mr. Dorati was born in Budapest. At the age of 14 he entered the Liszt Academy, where his teachers included Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly. Upon his graduation at the age of 18 he became a coach at the Budapest Royal Opera, where he made his conducting debut in 1924. In 1928 he became Fritz Busch's assistant at the Dresden Opera, and from 1929 to 1933 he was music director at the smaller Munster Opera. Although he never held another full-time operatic post, he periodically guest-conducted opera the rest of his life.
Mr. Dorati's next years were devoted primarily to dance, which presumably sharpened his sense of rhythmic propulsion in music. From 1933 to 1941 he was a conductor with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, touring the world with the company, and from 1941 to 1945 was music director of American Ballet Theater. Throughout this period Mr. Dorati continued his guest conducting in the symphonic repertory, making his American concert debut in 1937 with the National Symphony. After World War II he returned to the orchestral world, starting with the reconstruction of the Dallas Symphony as its music director from 1945 to 1949. He became an American citizen in 1947.
After the Dallas orchestra came 11 years with the Minneapolis Symphony, during which time he also appeared frequently in Europe - principally with the London Symphony and the Philharmonia Hungarica, a West German-based ensemble of Hungarian refugees. In the early 1970's, as that orchestra's honorary president, he recorded all the Haydn symphonies with the ensemble.
In the 1960s, Mr. Dorati established his residence in Switzerland and served as music director of the BBC Symphony (1963-66) and the Stockholm Philharmonic (1966-70). As music director of the National Symphony he led the inaugural concert in 1971 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He became senior conductor of the Royal Philharmonic in London in 1975, moving up to conductor laureate in 1978. His last full-time post was as music director of the Detroit Symphony from 1977 to 1981.
Throughout his career, Mr. Dorati advocated a wide range of 20th-century music. Above all he prized the work of his teacher and compatriot Bartok, music for which his own gifts for strong rhythmic articulation and vivid instrumental color were particularly suited. He was also a composer himself, in an idiom that was both modernist yet accessibly melodic, and he often conducted his own large-scaled scores. His autobiography, NOTES OF SEVEN DECADES, was published in 1979."
- John Rockwell, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 15 Nov., 1988
“Ferdinand Leitner was a German conductor who studied under Franz Schreker, Julius Prüwer, Artur Schnabel and Karl Muck. He also was a composition student with Robert Kahn. Starting as a pianist, through the help of Fritz Busch, he became a conductor in the 1930s. He was conductor of the Nollendorfplatz Theater in Berlin from 1943 to 1945; in Hannover from 1945 to 1946; in Munich from 1946 to 1947; and the General Music Director of the Württemberg State Opera house in Stuttgart from 1947 until 1969.
He is famous as a conductor of opera, his favourite composers being Wagner, Richard Strauss, Mozart, and twentieth-century composers Carl Orff and Karl Amadeus Hartmann. He succeeded Erich Kleiber in 1956 as conductor for the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. From 1976 to 1980, he worked in The Hague as principal conductor of Het Residentie Orkest.”