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Classicsonline Home » Artists » » Kogan, Leonid

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Leonid Kogan (1924 - 1982)


Born in humble circumstances, Leonid Kogan began his violin studies in 1930, encouraged by his father, an amateur player. He received a full academic education alongside a rigorous musical programme which included three hours’ violin practice every day and study of all the major violin methods of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as that of Carl Flesch. Kogan’s prowess is evident in his early success in the 1937 Ysaÿe Competition, even triumphing over many powerful rivals simply for the opportunity to compete outside the USSR. In 1941 he made his orchestral début with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, followed by solo débuts in Europe and the USA in the 1950s.

Kogan fell under Heifetz’s spell but, unlike many imitators of his style, added to it his own rigorous and distinctly Soviet musical personality. As a technician his use of the Auer-derived bow grip was notable, his powerful hands giving him immense poise and presence and the ability to execute very widely-spaced leaps with extraordinary precision and tonal connection. Playing for much of the time on a 1707 Stradivarius owned by the USSR state authorities, Kogan, unlike many, favoured an all-steel string setup (including steel-centre lower strings at a time when most players favoured a synthetic or gut core). This gave him a somewhat strident tone (certainly more so than David Oistrakh’s), although positive effects were clarity, brightness and power.

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