Great Conductors – Nikolai Golovanov

0 of 5 stars

Nikolai Golovanov
Glazunov, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky
Recorded 1948-53

Reviewed by: Bill Newman

Reviewed: August 2002
CD No: IMG Artists CZS 5 75112 2 (2 CDs)

Nikolai Golovanov is the most famous of Russia’s ’Old Age’ maestros, deprived of his musical posts by Stalin. We are shown here how one musician’s understanding of the poetic values that lie behind the printed notes can reveal fresh worlds of discovery to the listener. Golovanov’s interpretations influenced his successors – like Svetlanov, Kondrashin and Rozhdestvensky – but none dared imitate his extremes of tempo and phrasing which, together with a mastery of stylistic understanding, stimulated performances of brilliance and excitement.

Although previously on CD, it is good to have the five Liszt symphonic poems that Golovanov recorded together. Those addicted to drama, pathos and colourful orchestration will revel in them, including Orpheus, Mazeppa and Prometheus, although the melodious content, in the main, veers on the banal side. Apart from the first mentioned, there is nothing approaching the tuneful serenity of Les Preludes, but there is also nothing to touch the inspired treatment Golovanov imparts to them. They take on the aura of masterpieces, which they are not!

To select just the ’Overture’ and ’Scherzo’ from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, when the conductor also recorded the ’Nocturne’ and ’Wedding March’, is just plain crazy. A Lys CD contains the fuller version. Their performance is stunning.

Lys also coupled Glazunov’s Symphonies 6 and 7 (there is also a Golovanov No.5), so why select the first only to open the record? I have been waiting for ages, as other Golovanov fans have, for the remarkable Rachmaninov Symphony 3. This was coupled with the complete Aleko, but is extremely difficult to get hold of. I now understand that this Symphony has been issued on the Bohème label, but in a very poor transfer – which is most disappointing.

The live performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture is well worth having, making this CD a desirable acquisition.

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