(November 17, 1924 - December 17, 1982) (Hebrew: לאוניד בוריסוביץ' קוגן, Russian: Леонид Борисович Коган) was a violin virtuoso, and one of the 20th century's most famous Soviet violinists. He ranked among the greatest representatives of the Soviet School of violin playing.
Kogan was born in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, the son of a photographer who was an amateur violinist. After showing an early interest and ability for violin playing, his family moved to Moscow, where he was able to further his studies. From age ten he studied there with the noted violin pedagogue Abram Yampolsky. In that same year, 1934, Jascha Heifetz played concerts in Moscow. "I attended every one," Kogan later said, "and can remember until now every note he played. He was the ideal artist for me." When Kogan was 12, Jacques Thibaud was in Moscow and heard him play. The French virtuoso predicted a great future for him.
Kogan first studied at the Central Music School in Moscow (1934-43) then at the Moscow Conservatory (1943-48) also as a postgraduate (1948-51).
At the age of 17, and while still a student, he performed throughout the USSR. While still a student, he was co-winner of the first prize at the World Youth Festival, in Prague. In 1951 Kogan won first prize at the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels with a dazzling performance of Paganini's first concerto that included an outstanding interpretation of the Sauret Cadenza.
His official debut was in 1941, playing the Brahms Concerto with the Moscow Philharmonic in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory.
His international solo tours took him to Paris and London in 1955, and then South America and the USA in the following years. Kogan had a repertoire of over 18 concertos and a number of concertos by modern composers were dedicated to him.
In 1952, Kogan began teaching at the Moscow Conservatory, and in 1980 he was invited to teach at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy.
Kogan, a brilliant and compelling violinist, shunned publicity. He lacked too some of the warmth and platform-charisma of David Oistrakh, his 16-year-older colleague. His career was always overshadowed by David Oistrakh, who in addition was strongly promoted by Soviet authorities. Kogan was made an Honoured Artist in 1955 and a People's Artist of the USSR in 1964, and received the Lenin Prize in 1965.
Kogan married Elizaveta Gilels (sister of the famous pianist Emil Gilels), also a concert violinist. His son, Pavel Kogan, born in 1952, became a famous violinist and conductor. His daughter, Nina Kogan, born 1954, is a concert pianist and became the accompanist and sonata partner of her father at an early age.
Kogan died of a heart attack (in the city of Mytishchi), while travelling by train between Moscow and Yaroslavl to a concert he was to perform with his son, Pavel. Two days before, he had played the Beethoven Concerto in Vienna.
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