Beethoven Violin Concerto, Leonid Kogan, The Paris Conservatoire Orchestra Conduced by Constantin Silvestri

The first stereo release from The Electric Recording Company is a reissue of Columbia SAX 2386 first released in 1959 . It is a much sought after record as the used prices for clean copies are nothing short of astronomical— $3000 and up. Kogan was born in the Ukraine in 1924 and died of a heart attack in 1982 at age 58 a few days after playing this piece in Vienna. His western discography isn't extensive and the few he recorded for the Columbia division of EMI are the most collectible.

There's a 'classical music for pleasure' reissue (EMI's budget classical reissue label) from the '70s going for considerably less and you can even find a site where you can download for $9.95 a "needle drop" of the original (along with RCAs, Mercury's etc.) that surely is totally illegal but maybe not. There are two YouTube URLs where you can stream the entire CD version. What a world.

The Electric Recording Company's version lovingly duplicates the original "fold over" jacket with printing done the old fashioned way. Unable to use the Columbia logo, they've changed it to EMI on both the jacket and the label.

Cutting was done from the original master tape on ERC's lovingly restored all-tube vintage system . Plating and pressing were done at Holland's Record Industry.

So what is so special about Kogan and this performance and recording? He's considered one of the 20th century's violin greats along with Heifetz, Milstein, Oistrakh and a some others, but regardless of lists and placement within such lists, his playing here is dramatic, forceful and intense, yet crystalline-silky. I don't feel all that comfortable writing about soloists or comparing this performance to others I've heard live and on record because I'm really not qualified, so I'll stop. You can learn more about the piece from the annotation than from me.

Let's just say it's a performance that you can listen to repeatedly and be thrilled every play. As for the recording, well it is an old stereo recording that's somewhat distant, with left-right separation that's strictly old school but it leaves the center for Kogan's violin, which is richly recording tonally and texturally. It's transparent and the transients are silky and natural thanks in part to ERC's cutting chain. I know that for a fact since I did compare ERC's Martzy reissues to the Coup D'Archet vinyl edition cut at Abbey Road on solid state gear and there is no comparison whatsoever. The Coup version sounds thick and congealed. The ERC is liquid and rich like this one.

Yes, it will cost you £300 and only 300 copies have been pressed so if you have the money, I can recommend it without hesitation. If you don't have the money but you have the interest, you can find the CFP version on Ebay and elsewhere at more reasonable prices but I'm not sure Kogan will be reproduced on that budget reissue with such transparency and clarity.

As for the pressing, clearly Record Industry does not "dehorn" its metal parts because the first few plays were plagued by pops and clicks that eventually disappeared. So clean, and play more than a few times before deciding if the pressing meets your satisfaction. Musically I guaranty you it will.

miniguy7's picture

Also currently available on EMI Testament. A comparison would be interesting.

SimonH's picture

It dissapeared from Testaments web site - but somehow I found a link after you reminded me - and I ordered a copy - it arrived today - yes the recording is dated and left, right, centre - I think would probably prefer a mono copy - but Kogan's violin really grabbed me - not sure i would pay £300 tho".

BTW Supraphon have issued a Pure Analog 180gm re-issue of Talich and Rostropovich's Dvorak Cello Concerto - 1952 Mono - the playing makes you want to listen.



vinylmaven's picture

I took a deep breath and bought a copy of the ERC, apparently just before they sold out.  I've had the Testament reissue for a while so a direct comparison was high on the agenda.  The ERC is a clear winner (as it should be at 15 times the price) in both packaging and sound. The sound, particularly of the orchestra, is clearer and sweeter with more sense of hall ambience and soundstage.  If the ERC is a 9 (as Michael rated it), the Testament is around a 7.  The pressing for my ERC copy was mostly excellent and very quiet, but has a couple of spots with low level swish audible for a minute or two, which several cleanings did not remove.  Normally, no big deal but at that price, one tends to have high expectations.  The mastertape is what it is, and that's no sonic masterpiece, but the ERC probably makes the most of it.   Worth that price?  Well, IMHO it makes some sense when the original issue is impossibly rare and/or expensive and the quality of the reissue is unlikely to ever be surpassed.  That description fits this one pretty well.  Assuming you greatly admire the artist, have the scratch and can find a copy, it probably makes sense to consider.    

Jim Tavegia's picture

There has to be a tremendous amount of work put into remastering this, plating the stampers and then doing a meticulous job of pressing a great recording, yet only 300 people get ot enjoy this?  Do they not think that if they pressed 5,000 copies there would not be enough worldwide interest to sell them all at a reduced price, but still retain a good profit margin? $500 is a big hit. I am sure they will sell all of them.  $150,000 is a pretty good sale I guess. The math is easy...5,000 at $100 is a cool half mil. 

vinyl_ninja's picture

Their marketing strategy swings on elitism, not music appreciation. I bet a lot of folks will buy a copy, who don't even care what the music sounds like.  Covetousness of the veblen goods.

from their site: "ERC will not undertake a repress of any release at any future point." 

PeterPani's picture

I nearly wanted to order ERC's Mozart Box. I wish, they would have gone with the best pressing plant.

vinyl_ninja's picture

So, this is where you announce a drawing to give away your evaluation copy of the LP. Right, Michael? cool

ravenacustic's picture

NOT! When I saw the announcement of the release of these records several months back I said very interesting. Might be worth hearing, but owning? Hmm. And to think Mike has reviewed it as a 9 sonically doesn't make me want it any more. My shelf space has run out even for the good ones no less the "interesting" ones such as this. And, I would never want to hear my wife say one more time, Another Record??!! For something merely interesting and not truly great. That is too painful.

Michael T's picture

The price is way out of reach for most of us.  If they pressed 5,000 and sold them for even $100, I would consider seriously.  The amount of work involved in restoring the original gear used to master this release justifies that cost for me ( )

Michael - I am curious, do you know why the Lyrec machine has two preview heads?  I have never heard of this before. Thanks

Preston's picture

Mr. Fremer - would you kindly address the issue of de-horning of metal parts (stampers) in a little more detail?  I was worried about my sanity, and this is reassuring.  I've recently had some issues with some of the MoFi Hall & Oates LPs and the Omnivore re-issue of Camper Van Beethoven's Key Lime Pie.  I played them and for the most part, the sounded perfect, but there were pops and ticks (and yes, I cleaned all the LPs beforehand).  The next morning, I played the LPs again to confirm my assessment before I returned them and they sounded fine!  I. Am.  Not. Crazy.  In any event, if this is an issue for RTI, I will listen to the LPs several times before returning them now.  I've returned a few RTI-pressed LPs in the past that were probably fine: additional information on who does/does not do this might be of benefit to your humble readers.  Please keep up the good work!

madfloyd's picture

I was crazy enough to buy this. I got interested after reading about the Martzy recordings but since they were sold out, I took a chance on this.  I do like the performance and the pressing of this is spectacular. No surface noise whatsoever - I didn't think it was possible. I wish all records were pressed like this.

The recording itself sounds very dated. No bottom end to speak of and it seems like they didn't try to add any in the mastering.   Sounds pretty much like the CD version in terms of tonal balance.  The violin solos are satisifying though a bit thin.  Is it worth the $500 to me? Honestly, no, but I had to find out. 

Michael Fremer's picture

....Heard that kind of violin texture or sonority from a CD. I did warn in the review that the recording sounds "old". Kogan's violin doesn't sound "thin" on my system. I wonder what feedback ERC has been getting.

rbhifi1's picture

I purchased this LP and immediately heard a level of surface noise eg pops and clicks that dissappointed me, price nothwithstanding. So I cleaned the record and played it again not knowing anything about the effects 'dehorning'. Much to my surprise it had cleared up to a surprising extent. About 2 weeks later I decided to clean the LP one more time after having played both sides about five times. The 'clean up' continued albeit not as dramatically as the first cleaning. Where this will end seems predictable at this juncture. My copy will never be as silent as the price should of mandated IMO.

Having said this, Kogin's performance and the sound of his violin amaze and delight me every time. I played this LP for an accomplished violinist and recording engineer that knows the sound of my system with his violin recordings. His impression -- an average orchestral recording for the time. But as he spoke to Kogin he was swept away with admiration for his playing and how it was captured

I share his feelings exactly. Whenever I want to hear something emotionally thrilling this LP immediately comes to mind.

marechalney's picture

I attended Leonid Kogan's first concert in the US; the Beethoven Violin Concerto, with the then-called Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of New York conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos.  He was masterful!  Only King David (Oistrakh) was greater.  You needn't have had any special expertise to recognize the glory of Kogan's art, Micheal; I was an adolescent on that occasion.

Irwin's picture

Like a few others here I threw in my lot with the stereo reissues from ERC, partially as a gamble for the future. I was impressed by the Beethoven but recently received the second of the Kogan releases (Tchaikovsky)which to my ears takes things to a new level. I'd like to do a test with the Testament but against the CFP reissue its like two completely different recordings.

On another point I notice they drip feed the LPs into the market place and after a while the price increases to £500 on the popular titles. I believe they were over-subscribed on the Beethoven title.

Michael Fremer's picture
Mine just arrived and I can't wait to play it… well I have to wait. I've got a few things to take care of first...