Nikolai Golovanov. Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition; Rimsky-Korsakov: Suite from "Le Coq d’or"

This Golovanov recording of Pictures at an Exhibition is identified as Mussorgsky-Ravel, but I’m tempted to add Golovanov to the credits! As might be expected, Golovanov adds to the orchestration in numerous passages, usually something to reinforce the already healthy contigent of lower register instruments and/or percussion. He also omits all but one repetition of the “Promenade”. There is vitality and panache to spare in this reading: everything is phrased in an ultra-personal manner, and there are a number of unusually timed pauses between phrases. Golovanov’s usual radio group here responds with some of their best playing, although what he asks of the violins in “The market place at Limoges” is a bit beyond what is possible, judging from the results! The recorded sound is some of the best ever provided Golovanov, particularly on this very good 10″ Melodiya pressing that I used for this transfer, which is superior to the comparitevely dim sounding Seven Seas Cd release from a few years ago, and leagues better than the very poor Arlecchino release, neither of which are in print now. Sharp ears will (and have!) noticed the oddly spotlit saxophone in Il vecchio castello. One other oddity I’ve just caught is half a bar missing from a bad edit at about the 1:00 mark of “The market place at Limoges”

I’m afraid the Vanguard mastering of the Rimsky-Korsakov Suite and Night on Bald Mountain is rather dim sonically, but is at least fairly clean. I also have access to the Lp issue D 554/55, which only contains the first three of the four selections of the Coq d’or Suite, and is somewhat less constricted sonically, but is also very fierce and distorted in the upper end. I also have the third section on a 78 rpm pressing (018436/37), which has the widest ranging sound, but some noise to deal with. I will try and post these at a later date, for sake of comparison. There is an interesting interpretive detail is at 4:25 in the fourth section of the Suite: Golovanov makes a huge ritardando leading to this mark, followed by a FASTER tempo from this point forward. Before I heard Golovanov’s recording, I heard this same thrilling approach to this passage, which is usually done at one constant tempo, at a 1990 performance of the opera which I was lucky enough to attend in Moscow at the Bolshoi Theater with Svetlanov conducting, so I was hoping to find confirmation that this might have originated from a “Golovanovism” when I later found this recording…and was not disappointed!

Mussorgsky-Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition
Melodiya D 7347/48
recorded 1952

Rimsky-Korsakov: Le Coq d’or: Orchestral Suite
Mussorgsky: A Night on Bald Mountain
Vanguard VRS-6000
(issued as Melodiya D 3606/67 and D 795)
Recorded 1950, 1948

Nikolai Golovanov, conductor
Moscow Radio Orchestra


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