Kogan's Spectacular 1960 Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto Reissued By Electric Recording Company

Let's first diffuse the price outrage. This reissue of Leonid Kogan's epic performance of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto and Meditation by The Electric Recording Company, limited to 300 copies, costs £300 or about $504.

Original pressings, issued by UK Columbia in 1960 go for upwards of $5250 and never for less than $3000 in excellent condition. You can look it up for yourself on popsike.com. Yes, you can buy a Testament vinyl reissue for $35 that's cut from the original tape on solid state gear at Abbey Road, but based on the Johanna Martzy reissue comparison made "live" before ListenUp! Denver customers, you get what you pay for and then some.

Like previous ERC reissues, this one's cut using a fully restored all-tube Lyrec/Ortofon cutting system with packaging that is 100% faithful to the original with the exception of the "Columbia" logo being replaced by "EMI" for contractual reasons.

However, while previous pressing quality was very good, this new one takes quality to QRP level both in terms of fit'n'finish and sonic perfection. Backgrounds are jet-black perfect.

But more importantly, the Columbia engineers had made great sonic strides between the Kogan Beethoven Violin Concerto (also reissued by ERC) and this one. The orchestral spread is far more natural and not as "hard left/hard right" as it is on the Beethoven. More importantly, the orchestra's tone is harmonically rich and exceptionally transparent and it floats preternaturally in three dimensional space just behind Kogan's swoon-inducing violin, the tone of which is 100% believable and of the highest fi.

And even more importantly, while I don't claim to be the most sophisticated classical music listener, I've heard many Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto performances on record including Heifetz's RCA "Living Stereo", the somewhat more famous Oistrakh, Elman's and a few others and this one pushes all of my Tchaik buttons better than any of the others.

This is a lush, romantic, melodic piece—possibly Tchaikovsky's expression of love for one of his former male students (not that there's anything wrong with that) that Kogan delivers with forceful passion without breaking the emotional bank. We think of electric guitars and guitarists as having sexual swagger, but this performance extends well beyond sensual—the fiddle norm—right into penetrating sex.

The string tone produced and superbly recorded will melt you in your chair first play and every play, if you are fortunate enough to own this stunning limited edition release. Recommended without reservation even if you have borrow or hock something to buy it. It is an investment that will only increase in value over time.

One warning: it comes in ERC's ornate packaging including a booklet a wide "Obi" and a plastic outer sleeve sealed with a circular black sticky seal. You will probably be moved to keep the entire package intact. Either be extremely careful with the black sticky circle or if you are the least bit klutzy remove it and throw it away. As I was replacing the jacket in the outer plastic, the black sticky circle latched onto the lower back of the rear paper jacket and ripped off a small piece of it. UGH. You have been warned.

Irwin's picture

Glad we share the same view. As mentioned on an earlier post this pressing is simply stunning and really 2 to 3 notches above the Beethoven. I am currently buying the AP Living Stereos which are gorgeous but each time I go to pull them off the shelves (which is often) my hand wants to go to the Tchaikovsky. This is the jewel in ERC's crown and something they will have to live up to! Get in quick before this goes up to £500.

Michael Fremer's picture
This record is what superb analog is all about...
jsaliga's picture

Perhaps, but I think there are plenty of sensibly priced audiophile reissues that also fit that description, many of which you have reviewed here and on Sterophile and heaped tons of praise upon. Let's not loose sight of the excellence one can buy for $35 to $50.

Littlezilla's picture

I was at the Listen Up-Denver demo and was sufficiently impressed to, belatedly, seek out an ERC copy. Unfortunately, the price has already increased to £500 :-(

madfloyd's picture

I was disappointed with the sonics of the previous Kogan. In fact, I removed it from my main vinyl storage and it's packed away in the basement (I figured I wouldn't play it again). I'm sure it's mostly the recording and not the pressing, but still...

I have the Tchaikovsky already on vinyl (just purchased it about 4 months ago or so). Anyone know how the sonics compare between the two reissues? This is what I'm referring to:

Michael Fremer's picture
I thought the Beethoven recording was fine sonically, though dated somewhat. The violin sounds superb. The orchestra, the usual you got in those days but this one is much better. I'm sure the Testament sounds good. I might post a minute of the ERC version when I can come up for air!
Irwin's picture

I picked up the Testament this week as I have been wanting to compare to the ERC version. I already have the Classics For Pleasure reissue which sounds like a completely different recording, let alone a poorer pressing. Having enjoyed the recent Mercury and Living Stereo LP reissues I was expecting the Testament to be closer to these in terms of sound stage, depth and warmth. Initial impressions were that the sound stage was quite wide if a little biased towards the right. However, what became clear pretty quickly was that the string tone was shrill and the bass lacked any depth. It felt a bit like listening to a reasonably good CD. I presume this is because it came from a digital source. I switched to the ERC after a while leaving everything at exactly the same levels and yet again was astonished by the difference in every aspect of this pressing. The sound stage and dynamics all feel totally natural and unforced. They really pull you in and, as has been noted elsewhere, the string tone is unbelievably gorgeous. I know there has been debate about the Martzy's but in this case (1st pressing excepted, maybe) in my opinion there really is no comparison.

madfloyd's picture

You just cost me $504.00!

Seriously, a huge thanks for taking the time to compare them and describe the differences. I love the music and love that performance and given that I have a lot invested in my system, I'm going to splurge on the ERC.

Irwin's picture

my Testament for the ERC if you don't like it :)

Seriously though, whilst I thought the Beethoven was good this really is several notches above that. Hope you enjoy.

Ravel's picture

The audiophile community are transfixed by The Emperor's New Clothes.
Limited edition,tube cutting,vintage cutting head and the best of all; the insanely high price of $500 a piece. Electric Recording Company showing us the the the way to audio heaven.
But suddenly a voice cries out "But the emperor isn't wearing anything at all!" http://www.theaudiobeat.com/blog/martzy.htm

You want great value for money? Buy Coup d’Archet!

Michael Fremer's picture
Claims that setting VTA makes a difference playing laterally modulated grooves. The voice that cries out claims that there is an FFSS equalization curve used on stereo Decca records. The voice that cries out claims that infinitesimal changes to VTA produce sonic differences. The voice that cries out produces a laundry list of equipment to justify his conclusions but I suggest he is the emperor with no clothes not ERC because all of those assertions are demonstrably wrong. I compared the Coup and the ERC in front of groups of people at ListenUp! event in Denver last winter (and unlike the voice that cries out when he does comparisons, I didn't tell the audience what to hear or conclude) and the conclusion was unanimous: the ERC sounded far superior. However, we agree on one thing: the Coup d'Archet version is a better value for the money.
Michael Fremer's picture
Gross VTA/SRA changes can make very minor frequency balance shifts but nothing that would sway a comparison between the Coup and ERC. We will post blind 96/24 files here excerpting both versions of the Martzy. Readers will have the opportunity to decide for themselves. I have no problem with you disagreeing what what's posted on this site. I have a big problem with your tone. It's condescending and particularly annoying since you are posting misinformation.
Andrew L's picture

The voice that cries out is certainly 100% correct on the first three points you comment on, so why should anyone doubt the voice when it states that Coup LPs stand head and shoulders above ERC's risible exploitative product?
Laundry list? Pot - Kettle - Black!

Michael Fremer's picture
There is no such thing as the FFSS curve. PERIOD. You can believe "the voice that cries out" or George Bettyes, a guy who cut the actual records:


Stop being a putz.

Michael Fremer's picture
To change SRA 1 degree on a 9" tonearm requires a 4mm change at the back of the arm. The difference in thickness among records is well less than that. So if you think you can hear less than a 1 degree SRA change, you're hallucinating. If you were to measure azimuth with a digital oscilloscope when making these minute VTA/SRA changes you'd find a measurable change, particularly on a unipivot arm, due to the headshell's offset angle. That is what is heard. Minute azimuth shifts are definitely audible. "voice that cries out" is certainly 100% wrong.

Stop being a putz.

oregonpapa's picture

Running the risk of being seen as a member of the great unwashed, I'll take my one-dollar, thrift store find of Erica Moreni playing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. My vinyl versio is in mono, and sounds great. Morini at her best. I slso have the stereo version on an MCA budget reissue. Another great disc. Moreni and Milstein are hard to beat on this selection of music. Hey, I just saved 500 smackers that can be put toward my next matched KT-150s intended for my ARC Ref-75. Its all about priorities. The day I spend over $500 for a record will be the day it snows in hell.

jsaliga's picture

I put these ERC releases into the same category as the $8,000 power cord and $50,000 turntable. They are no doubt well made products but they are produced and designed to shake loose some serious money from people with very deep pockets and insanely distorted perceptions of value that their wealth accommodates. It's sort of like arguing that the Bugatti Veyron is designed for the automotive enthusiast. It has a ring of truth but it doesn't tell the entire story. You don't have to blow a cool million on car to appreciate a fine automobile. But some people buy these things like the rest of us go to the corner store for a gallon of milk.

Frankly, as someone who has spent tens of thousands of dollars on vinyl reissues I don't give a rat's patootie if ERC spent a zillion dollars on a Googlephonics mastering chain and a moon rock cutting lathe. I am happy enough with my Testament 180g pressing. Perhaps that makes me an audio heathen, but I don't much care what anyone else thinks. I also don't care if ERC decides to put out dozens of these ridiculously priced LPs aimed at people with vast amounts of disposable income so long as it doesn't affect the price I pay for high quality reissues from the likes of Speakers Corner, Testament, Music Matters, etc.