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Moscow State Symphony Orchestra directed by Maestro Pavel Kogan (Orchestra)

In 2003 the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra celebrated its 60th anniversary. In their evaluation of ancient dynasties, Chinese philosophers traced a direct link between the emotional and social conditions of the empire and contemporary music. This sort of correlation between music and the destiny of the people became very clear at the time the orchestra was born. It was established in 1943 when the country made a gigantic effort and forced the enemy to retreat. It was, perhaps, the glory of the forthcoming victory and faith in triumph that determined the destiny of this group of performers. Lev Steinberg became the conductor of the new orchestra. From the very outset, he set the highest standards of performance—it is not for nothing that this outstanding conductor had been with the Bolshoi Orchestra for many years. Later, equally well-known masters joined the orchestra, such as Nikolai Anosov, Leo Ginzburg and Veronika Dudarova. In those years, the young orchestra began to include not only fundamental world classical music in its repertoire but also gave the first interpretation to many works by S.Prokofiev, D.Shostakovich, N.Miaskovsky and R.Glier.

Thanks to its stellar teachers, with the years MSSO became a world class ensemble. The orchestra’s creative potential was greatly enhanced by its performances with such outstanding soloists as David Oistrakh, Leonid Kogan, Emil Gilels and Mstislav Rostropovich.

As to Pavel Kogan’s biography as an artist, he was blessed with brilliant teachers all his life. At the age of 12 he made his debut in a philharmonic concert as part of the family trio. He performed together with his father, Leonid Kogan, and mother, Elizaveta Gilels, both outstanding violinists of our time. The young graduate of a music school continued his education at the conservatoire majoring in two classes at the same time—as a violinist and symphony conductor. This can be accounted for in several ways, such as, for instance, undefined tastes or even a sort of split personality. However, at that time the young talent had no time for such speculations—he simply felt the inseparable connection between these musical arts. Fate had it that Kogan’s teacher in conducting class was Leo Ginzburg, one of the founding fathers of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra. In 1970 aiao, when Pavel Kogan was 18, his talent as a violinist received the highest grades at the Sibelius International Violin Competition. This success was followed by numerous concerts with the leading orchestras of Russia, Europe, Japan and the United States, including the Philadelphia Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

One would think that Pavel Kogan’s rapid rise as a virtuoso violinist should have prompted him to perfect this particular mastery of his. But the great maestro has been convinced that conducting is a synthesis, or a quintessence of all musical arts. The brilliant career of a violinist became an excellent basis for his work as a conductor. Like no other, he understood that the strings were the foundation of a symphony orchestra and the core of its sound.

Although Pavel Kogan first rose to the conductor’s stand when he was not yet 19, his debut as a symphony conductor took place in 1974 with the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) Philharmonic Orchestra, a leading orchestra of the Russian Federation. In the years that followed, the conductor Pavel Kogan performed with the best orchestras of Europe, America and Japan. Among those, the Russian orchestras make up a so-called Hall of Fame of Russian culture—the USSR State Symphony Orchestra, the State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR Radio and Television, the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Bolshoi Theater Symphony Orchestra. The maestro became a welcome guest at symphony music festivals in Helsinki, Dubrovnik, Montreux, Prague and Villach.

Tours by conductors are always big events in the music world. They always bring together different schools, traditions and, ultimately, cultures. However, for a person aiming for the summits of conducting mastery a tour with a “strange” orchestra is only a short holiday where your biggest goal is to show yourself and to make a notation in the world charts. What else could the conductor dream of when the great Mravinsky invited him to conduct the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra during their tour of Spain? What was lacking for the maestro who opened the legendary production of La Traviata at the Bolshoi Opera in 1988? Strange as it might seem, he was missing the responsibility and involvement in the life of a real creative group and the strategic implementation of his ideas. This could only be achieved with an orchestra of his own.

In 1988 Pavel Kogan got an invitation from the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra. He became the Music Director and Chief Conductor of that orchestra. During the time he worked with the orchestra and performed all over the world, he was also giving concerts in his country as well: Moscow, Leningrad, Sverdlovsk, Kiev, the Baltic capital cities… It seemed that the maestro was trying to hold together the country falling apart. But even a top notch artist cannot do everything.

In May 1989 Pavel Kogan became the head of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra. The fact that this was in his own country was very important to Kogan. He took over the orchestra, and the orchestra took him in: the unanimous choice of the team was supported by the official appointment.

Pavel Kogan‘s ability to work hard, to achieve his goals, his talent as a musician and his perfect knowledge of the nature of string instruments allows him to constantly improve the creative and repertoire policy of the orchestra. A major step forward for MSSO was the decision to include works by Western classics in its programs, which, in Pavel Kogan’s opinion, foster discipline and determination in a creative team. A hallmark of Kogan‘s orchestra, as MSSO is referred to all over the world, is its large-scale series, or cycles: all symphony works of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Schumann, Schubert, Bruckner, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Rakhmaninov, Prokofiev and Shostakovich; all Mahler symphonies and vocal cycles. For Pavel Kogan a pause in the acquisition of new repertoire is a big sin, while the acquisition itself is not only the accumulation of new material but also its creative interpretation and renewal of his own visions and renditions. In 1977 Pavel Kogan received the National Prize of the Russian Federation for the performance of the full cycle of all Gustav Mahler’s Symphonies and the Vocal Cycles. That same year he became a full member of the Russian Academy of Arts.

Pavel Kogan’s long friendship with many outstanding performers, both on a personal and artistic level, helped the orchestra to expand the list of soloists who have performed with the orchestra. Among them are Yu.Bashmet, V.Tretyakov, Y.Shtarker, V.Repin, M.Vengerov and many other excellent musicians. MSSO has been conducted by K.Kondrashin, G.Rozhdestvensky, E.Svetlanov, V.Gergiev and M.Yansons.

The tour itinerary of the orchestra does not cover the entire world map but gives one a good idea of the highlights of musical life on the planet. Ovations greeted their concerts from the British Isles to Hong Kong, Japan and Australia. Under Pavel Kogan‘s leadership the orchestra represents Russia at major festivals in Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria (The Corinthian Summer Festival). The orchestra is a regular participant in Russian festivals, such as Moscow Stars and the Russian Winter Festival in Moscow, and the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg. The 2001-2002 season was marked by the orchestra‘s triumphant tour of the United States which included 18 concerts in the most prestigious concert halls and became an important event in the cultural life of the U.S. And, certainly, the MSSO appearances in the best concert halls of Moscow—the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire and the Tchaikovsky Hall—are always a tremendous success. Among the orchestra musicians there are over 20 merited artists, national artists and laureates of international competitions.

In 1998 Pavel Kogan became the Principal Guest Conductor of the Utah Symphony Orchestra in Salt Lake City. This prestigious appointment and extensive tours with the U.S. orchestra did not in any way diminish his responsibility for his own team. The Maestro intends to celebrate the orchestra’s 60th birthday with large-scale tours and new additions to the orchestra’s repertoire.

The chief conductor Pavel Kogan had been involved in extensive educational work. His orchestra is the leader in sales of subscriptions and tickets to concerts of the Moscow Philharmonic Society.

It was said in the ancient East: “Believe me, our life is full of wonders. Million leaves cover a tree. A man has no need to count them. He simply looks at the tree, seems them all at once and admires the gorgeous crown. Isn’t it a wonder?” Being tested by algebra, harmony of symphonic creation appears almost unknowable. Vast number of things interlace here—ancient traditions, complicated laws of melody and harmony, mastership of many performers, puzzling printed music, right up to conductor‘s mood and daily problems of musicians. However, when you hear the music performed by such virtuosos like those in MSSO conducted by such first-rate conductor as Pavel Kogan, you have no need to puzzle over innumerable components of their mastership—eternal tree of art arises in the heart of a listener in all its entirety.

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