Svjatoslav Richter, Piano – Oleg Kagan, Violin – In Recital – 1976 Helsinki Festival – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Something historic again this week. Svjatoslav Richter and Oleg Kagan in recital at the 1976 Helsinki Festival and broadcast by NRK Radio in Helsinki. The recital is all-Beethoven, Beginning with Number 2 in A opus 12. Number 2. Then Sonata Number 4 in A op. 23 and concluding with Sonata Number 5 in F “Spring” op. 24.
At the end of the sixties Oleg Kagan was introduced to Sviatoslav Richter. This became the foundation of a close friendship and artistic collaboration that lasted for more than 20 years. What Kagan admired so much in Richter’s personality was ‘his devotion to music without ever compromising, his self-criticism and honesty’ which kept his playing at all times free from any pose. Here the modest Kagan used to enumerate virtues which he himself had in abundance – perhaps without even realizing it.
Like Oistrakh, Richter was extremely excited by Kagan’s playing of Mozart and suggested that they perform together the Mozart Violin Sonatas. Years later, Kagan still remembered how embarassed he was at the time at the great pianist’s unshakable faith in the young violinist’s approach to Mozart. The recitals from 1975 and 1982 transmit something of the high spirits, the graciousness and depth of the playing of these two men. Kagan perfectly understood what lay behind Richter’s dislike of the recording studio: an almost religious devotion to the inspiration and spontaneity of open performance. Together, and over many years, the two men made music in an almost incredible variety of different situations, from working men’s clubs in Siberia, collective farms in White Russia, concert halls in the Caucasus, tiny music schools in Middle Asia, to museums and art galleries in Moscow and even private flats.
Also the classical composers held such a prominent place in their repertoire these two musicians shared also a vital interest in the music of the 20th century, and, in fact, it was the very beginning of their musical partnership that Richter asked Kagan to play with him Berg’s Kammerkonzert. Richter shared with performers of Kagan’s generation something of the intense excitement of the early sixties, when music that had previously been forbidden or forgotten, was suddenly available to play. And for both musicians, this meant especially the music of the Second Viennese school of which Richter and Kagan have, separately and together, given very fine performances, as especially Berg’s Kammerkonzert and Berg’s Violin Kagan’s keen and even omnivorous interest in everything new and unexpected, naturally led him to the newest music, and especially to the music of Denisov, Gubaidulina and Schnittke. He could be its passionate advocate and many composers wrote pieces for him, including Sofia Gubaidulina, Vassily Lobanov, Tigran Mansurian and Alfred Schnittke, Undoubtedly it was Schnittke to whom he felt closest. Kagan’s performance of Schnittke’s Second Violin Sonata remains the composer’s favourite. And, as if in return, Schnittke wrote several works especially for Kagan, the first one being the Third Violin Concerto in 1978.
The concert is short (just a little over an hour) – is in mono and a little rusty in spots, but sometimes history is less than perfect – it’s the heart that counts.
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