Case Study: Leonid Kogan

Leonid Kogan

kogan

Leonid Kogan, conducted by Kyril Kondrashin: Brahms Violin Concerto, Columbia Stereo 1958. This copy was sold at auction in 2019 for £2200.

I first saw this record in Oxfam in Saffron Walden locked in a glass case. It looked unprepossessing, and the price shocked me.

Oxfam £500 classical copy

Oxfam, Saffron Walden, 2016

This example was £500 … with “some wear on playing?”

Discogs website listed this Leonid Kogan Brahms Violin Concerto LP on UK Columbia in 2016 as:

Lowest price £13.20
Median price £16.35
Highest price £310.00

So where did Oxfam get £500 from? Very Good is below “excellent” which is below “mint.” £500 in this condition suggests a £1500 to £2000 mint value, yet it’s readily available on CD. This was in 2016. When I also saw a copy on Popsike at £36.

So in 2019 one was auctioned at £2200. The catalogue described it as “the holy grail of classical collectors.”

In 2020, Discogs has two on sale one at £2499.00, and another at £3,642, both ‘Very Good Plus.’ The £3,642 one states:

Clean, well kept copy from a serious collection. Only one previous owner – strong VG+ on both jacket and vinyl. Don’t miss out on this classic rarity!

Discogs “Highest” sale is £3,188. 

There’s one on eBay at £2,229. It has to have a silver and white Columbia centre. You’ll understand these are NOT my images:

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A later reissue on EMI Testament mid-price lists between £23 and £80. Testament states:

Testament has revived these classic titles from the EMI catalog using only the original EMI master tapes, cut onto lacquer at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios and mastered using full analog techniques throughout production.

So check out the US copy on EMI’s Angel American label and they run from $12 to $29.99.

This Brahms piece was Leonid Kogan’s first ever recording, back in 1941 with the Moscow Philharmonic. He recorded it many times. He also performed it on very early UK Columbia with Constantin Silvestri and the Orchestre de la societe des concerts de Conservatoire (£99).  Or how about a CD with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for £7.99?

You can get a used but sealed Japanese vinyl copy of the Kondrashin / Philharmonia disc for £79.49, or a used Japanese SACD copy for the same price.

I wanted to hear the one all the fuss is about that version with Kondrashin. So I went to iTunes, in the COMPARE series, coupled with the Isaac Stern / Eugene Ormandy version.

£3.49 for the two. I copied it onto CDR to listen on a decent system.

So what is the secret of this particular recording?  It seems Oxfam were about right on value for once. Wikipedia says:

The EMI Kogan recordings from 1950s and 1960s used to belong to Columbia, who released about five stereo recordings of Kogan in the vinyl record period: Beethoven Violin Concerto (SAX 2386), Brahms Violin Concerto (SAX 2307), Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (SAX 2323), Lalo Symphonie espagnole (SAX 2329) and Leclar/Telemann/Ysaye Sonatas for duo Violins (SAX 2531). Nowadays, these Kogan records are among the most sought-after records for classical vinyl collectors. For example, the price of the Beethoven Violin Concerto (SAX2386) record soars up to 10,000 dollars in eBay auctions.

Screenshot 2020-08-10 at 13.32.23
leonid-kogan-silvestri-beethoven-violin-orig-columbia-sax-2386-uk-1959-lp-vg_29395157

It’s not even a nice sleeve.

So I checked Discogs. One Beethoven Violin Concerto (SAX2386) for sale at £7420.

In 2013, Record Collector reported on the Electric Recording Co which specializes in remastering and repressing LPs on old valve equipment:

Each issue is limited to just 300 copies. The label is currently on its fourth release, and we were lucky enough to witness the lacquer cutting of Leonid Kogan’s Beethoven Violin Concerto (a Mint original would be worth £4000 – £5000) from the stereo masters straight out of EMI’s Paris vaults.
Record Collector #422, Christmas 2013

That new reissue copy came out in February 2014.  It sold at the time for £350. It sold out immediately. Secondhand copies of this reissue are priced on Discogs from £1,125 to £2,700. All four copies for sale in 2020 are listed as Mint, suggesting they were bought as an investment.

A copy of the original in 2016 sold for $9464.51.
In August 2020, Discogs listed a copy as the second highest price for the month, at $4,117.

One comment is that it costs £9 as a Classics For Pleasure pressing, also from EMI. That was the same … Paris Conservatoire Orchestra conducted by Constantin Silvestri.

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Silvestri was principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra from 1961, and we school kids were bussed in to see special afternoon concerts with him a couple of times a year … every secondary school in Bournemouth went. Then in 1966, I saw him conduct several times. He was an astonishing performer on the rostrum. I also had the job of setting up the BSO for Sunday concerts at the Winter Gardens in 1967-68. I was a Silvestri fan. Kogan must have been pretty good too.