INKPOT#67 CLASSICAL MUSIC REVIEWS: Leonid Kogan plays Music for Violin, Guitar and Piano (Revelation)
for Violin, Guitar and Piano LEONID KOGAN violin
Andrei Mytnik piano
Alexander Ivanov-Kramskoy guitar
Elizaveta Gilels violin
RUSSIA REVELATION RV10020
by Ng Yeuk Fan
Leonid Kogan plays Music
for Violin, Guitar and Piano
RAVEL Pice en forme de habanera
SARASATE Srnade andalouse, op.28
BORODIN Serenade from ‘Petit Suite’ (arr. Heifetz)
PROKOFIEV Masque from Romeo & Juliet
DEBUSSY Il pleure dans mon couer – Ariette oubliee No.2 (arr. Hartmann)
MILHAUD Corcovado Sumar
BRAHMS Hungarian Dance No.1 and No.20
GLAZUNOV Meditation for Violin and Piano, op.32
KREISLER La Gitana
GLUCK Melody (arr. Kreisler)
LECLAIR Sonata for Two Violins in G, Op.3, No.1
GRANIANI Sonata for Violin and Guitar. Duet for Guitar and Violin
Recitals are often interesting for the sheer variety that a performer can offer. I have been bored by recitals programming one and only one composer – but that’s another piece of cake altogether. In any case – this recommendation does not belong to that category. In continuation with my tribute to the great Leonid Kogan, this recital offering should convince the listener that Kogan is indisputably one of the giants of the violin in the 20th Century.
In the Debussy and Ravel, Kogan caresses the violin tone in the most lyrical manner – there is a very spontaneous feel here. He captures the spaciousness and in the Debussy veils his bright tone to match the translucent feel Mytnik delivers. Superb impressionism!
Borodin’s little known “Serenade” from the Petit Suite is played here in a Heifetz transcription – a bonus for violinophiles. Though short and almost ‘handicapped’, it has its own charm. Collectors of Heifetz transcriptions can add this to their collection.
Milhaud’s short pieces Corcovado and Sumar are suitably light and infectious in their witty and tricky melodies. I cannot help but make a comparison with Heifetz’s playing of Sumar on EMI Reference (CDH7 64929-2), which I thought didn’t quite capture the inherent taunting rhythmn and melody in the music. One can sometimes hear Heifetz compromising the composers for Heifetz the musician. Thus, though Heifetz’s controversial readings are never less than interesting, Kogan on the other hand – arguably the best violinist in the USSR and one who does not put his interests before that of the composer – produces a result that is very agreeable, working its wonders from within the written music.
This has its drawbacks/differences however – I found Gluck’s Melody one step short of tantalizing imagination – the kind of heart-wrenching that will break all the imagined limits within form and structure. Kogan is like a Porsche miraculously coming to a stop before an abrupt end of the fly-over… Heifetz simply flies over it. Both are equally breathtaking and exciting – but composers may beg to differ. Kogan comes as close to my idea of the ideal as is possible with the lyric Meditation by Glazunov and the famous Estrellita by Ponce.
The Sonata for Two Violins in G, op.3, no.1 by Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764) is played together with his wife Elizaveta Gilels on second violin. Leclair was noted to be the first great violinist of the French School. This is a selection from his four books of violin sonatas, which has had a lasting influence on violinists to this day. This coupling demonstrates firstly Kogan’s mastery of music before the Classical period and further, his impeccable taste and sensitivity to style. Elizaveta makes an effective partner and there is some tantalising music-making here. Telstar Records, which markets Revelation, makes a printing error here in the timing of the Leclair, it should 14’04 – not 4’08.
For sheer bite and excitement – there is an equal proportion on offer too. Listen to Kogan’s rendition of Prokofiev’s Masque – this one does not duplicate the other one reviewed in the Kogan Legacy Volume IV. This one is equally good, not so lyrical but Kogan added some more bite into the multiple stoppings. The effect is stunning – (Track 4, 0’37) and to me – nerve-wrecking; if one understands my sentiments about why Prokofiev should be played almost schizophrenically. The Sarasate juxtaposes magnetic lyricism with such immense depth of emotion: the violin does not merely sing – it cries. You must hear it to believe.
Listen also to Kriesler‘s La Gitana – after the introduction, Kogan launches into the fast-paced ‘gitana’ bit with such originality. Even if you already have many versions of this ‘lounge music’ – you must trust me, Kogan makes this one different. The same can be said of the Brahms, Kogan’s resplendent tone matches his first class phrasing – uniquely Kogan – yet never losing the Brahms in the music. Though I have many versions of these Hungarian Dances – Kogan makes it refreshing for me.
The programme ends with a duet between Kogan and Ivanov-Kramskoy on the guitar. These pieces by the Italian composer Filippo Graniani are so sweetly pleasant that I smiled in delight instantly. Graniani was born to a family of guitar and violin makers. Eventually – he grew up to be an accomplished performer on the guitar and in his lifetime, wrote many delightful pieces for the instrument.
This Sonata for the Violin and Guitar is in a single movement with the violin dominant throughout. The Duet for Guitar and Violin is very similar. Skeptics of guitar music (such as myself) will find this collaboration between these two instruments an exceptional experience. I am thoroughly convinced of such a duet – helped in large part by the cheerful music and the concordant playing of both soloists – entirely absorbed in music making. Kogan can be a little too harsh in this tender music, but on the whole, there is very good control and his attempt to match his tone to the ever-fluffy guitar sound is commendable.
These short pieces of popular violin works are interspersed amongst rarer, larger works by composers such as Leclair (1697-1764) and Graniani (1767-?). Kogan is paired with Andrei Mytnik again in this recital – I have previously heard their collaboration on the Arlecchino label playing Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata (reviewed here) – it was nothing short of excellent. This collaboration too is no different. This added to the Guitar Duets makes this a compulsive buy.
Recorded between 1950-1955, the sound quality is excellent for similar music from that period – no worries here.
More! More! More Prokofiev !!!…Ng Yeuk Fan hungers for more of Prokofiev’s music.