WORKS: Violin Concerto; Violin Concerto; Violin Concerto
PERFORMER: David Oistrakh, Leonid Kogan (violin); Grand SO of State Radio and Television, USSR State SO/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Moscow PO/Kyrill Kondrashin
CATALOGUE NO: RV 10075
This release enshrines Russian premiere performances of violin concertos by three important 20th-century composers who, for various reasons, did not find favour with Soviet authorities. It is a sober reminder of the way things once were to note that these works from the Thirties were not heard in the former USSR until the Sixties. For those involved, these performances must have been emotional and important occasions.
Unfortunately, hearing them in recorded form confirms that premiere performances are rarely ideal. Kogan’s impassioned, soloist-centred Berg makes one realise that there is more muscle in this score than we frequently hear, and his desire for forward momentum is an interesting antidote in music that too often emerges as a chain of vertical sonorities. But textural balance is also crucial for an understanding of Berg’s conception, and the violin’s forward placement frequently exacerbates Kogan’s extroversion and swamps important lines in the orchestra. The recording of the Hindemith is so brash, constricted and overloaded that little enjoyment can be had from a performance that sounds a bit hurried in any case. Finally, Oistrakh and Kondrashin generate plenty of heat and sweep in the Stravinsky, a work that responds at least as successfully to playful precision. David Breckbill