This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007
Mischa (Michael) Kogan (1904-1982), violist, was born in 1904 at Kertch, the Ukraine, Russia, into a prosperous Jewish family. Putting aside an early interest in medicine, he studied violin and viola at the Moscow Conservatorium until unrest following the Bolshevik revolution in October 1917 prompted him to leave Russia for Constantinople. At 16 he moved to Vienna, where he continued his musical studies with Arnold Rosé (Gustav Mahler’s brother-in-law) and further nurtured his love of chamber music. After studying in Berlin with Professor Alexander Fiedelmann, he settled in Jerusalem, becoming a Palestinian national; he joined two brothers on service with British military forces there. In 1928 he migrated to Melbourne (as `Michael’), living first at Carlton and later at Toorak.
Playing with the Victorian, Melbourne and Sisserman string quartets, Kogan became a prominent concert performer, expanding local repertoires with works from his extensive library and gaining recognition for the viola as a solo instrument. In 1931 he joined the staff of the New Conservatorium, Spring Street, and founded his first exclusive chamber music club. An active member of the Association of Music Teachers of Victoria, he also taught at the St Kilda Conservatory and took private students. In 1938 he was appointed a permanent member of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and during World War II—having been rejected for military service on medical grounds—organised and performed in chamber music groups for the forces. After returning from overseas, having played in 1948-49 with the London Symphony and London Philharmonic orchestras, in 1950 Kogan became a practical instructor (senior lecturer 1960-63) in viola at the University of Melbourne conservatorium.
In 1950 Kogan also established the Soirées Musicales Chamber Music Society, through which—as Verdon Williams recalled—he `carved himself an important and unique niche’ in Melbourne’s musical life. The society’s earliest annual concert seasons were held in private homes on Sunday afternoons, but their popularity soon required public venues, including Coppin Hall, South Yarra, the Caulfield Arts Centre, the Methodist Ladies’ College and Melba Hall at the university. Kogan persuaded the Australian Broadcasting Commission to allow visiting international musicians to perform in the society’s recitals: over time its programs featured Sir John Barbirolli (cello), Evelyn Rothwell (oboe), Ruggiero Ricci and Fritz Kreisler (violin), Daniel Barenboim and Alfred Brendel (piano), and Jean-Pierre Rampal (flute). Often introducing new works, some by Australian composers, the group also hosted local artists, Hephzibah Menuhin, Raymond Lambert (piano), John Amadio (flute), Paul McDermott (violinist) and John Kennedy (cello) among them.
A fine violist and an intense and committed musician, Kogan continued to direct and perform in a variety of ensembles. With thick-lensed glasses and wild, wiry but receding hair, he became one of the Melbourne (in 1949-65 Victorian) Symphony Orchestra’s most recognised members until his retirement in 1975. He was awarded the British Empire Medal (1977) for his services to music. On 27 August 1982 Mischa Kogan died, unmarried, at St Kilda; he was buried in the Chevra Kadisha cemetery, Springvale.
Jillian Graham, 'Kogan, Mischa (Michael) (1904–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kogan-mischa-michael-12753/text23001, published in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 21 September 2014.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007