The majority of Nikolai Golovanov’s discography consists of Russian repertory, both operatic and symphonic. If you are familiar with his extravagant style, it is easy to see why he would have an interest and affinity for these scores. His ability to find cliffhangers in those musical nooks and crannies where others find tranquil seas means there will not be a dull moment to be found. Like a fine pianist in the Lisztian tradition, he varies his timing, phrasing and dynamics to support and augment, what to him, was the basic road-map provided by the printed score. If you do follow along (scores may be downloaded here), you’ll find many instances where Golovanov takes the implication of a musical line and, with great enthusiasm, moves forward impulsively or lingers over what is a minuscule blip on the radar of less obsessively molded performances. What does take some getting used to, for the uninitiated, are some of the orchestral sounds that accompany Golovanov’s quest for the maximum musical and sonic effect. What would modern recorded technology have revealed about such a unique approach to timbre and balance? In some regards, Evgeny Svetlanov was the heir to this style, certainly more so than Mravinsky or Rozhdestvensky. I’m not sure one can carry this comparison very far before realizing that there are really no successors to this kind of extreme individualism. Those who have gotten to know these works via the Haitink Philips recordings, may not recognize the cycle they know from those serviceable, but rather bloodless versions.
I first heard about these recordings about 30 years ago, when I heard of an Lp issue by Eurodisc. I never did manage to find a copy of that issue, but years later I did hear a copy, which I had hoped to use for a transfer, but it turns out to be poorly re-channeled to stereo, with the addition of some very odd added echo. Even when summed to mono, this set was useless (if you’re curious, that set can be heard here). So, after years of passing up Melodiya lps, with their often noisy surfaces, I started to keep my eyes open for them. Luckily, I found several copies myself, and then borrowed a complete set from Ward Marston, who’s a big Golovanov fan, which my friend Mike Gartz dubbed using his wonderful setup. I used my own copy of the final disc. It was worth tracking this version down, as it is much more full-bodied than the Eurodisc mastering. Originally, I was going to apologize for duplicating the portion of this set that EMI included in their entry for Golovanov in the “Great Conductors of the 20th Century” series, which some of you may own. I don’t know if it’s a result of inferior source material or poor digital mastering techniques, but I found the sound to be very colorless and over-filtered, and not particularly less noisy. In any case, I’m happy to present this unique set!
Liszt: Symphonic Poems
1. Ce Qu’on Entend Sur La Montagne (“Bergsymphonie”)
2. Tasso: Lamento E Trionfo
3. Les Préludes
8. Héroïde Funèbre
11. Die Hunnenschlacht
12. Die Ideale
Nikolai Golovanov, conductor
Moscow Radio Orchestra
Melodiya D 09097/8; D 09099/100;
D 09101/2; D 09103/4
Recorded 1952 (Nos. 3-7) & 1953
Important note (5/17/10): I have replaced several files since posting this set, one for a minor correction, and one for a huge mistake in the Melodiya pressings that I worked from. At the 27:40 mark on Cd 1, track 1 (Ce Qu’on Entend Sur La Montagne), side one ends, followed by the last 4 or so minutes (on side 2) of the work….well, side 2 of the Melodiya pressing repeats what is 11:15 to 15:15 of side one, so the ENDING IS MISSING! I asked my friend Mike Gartz (thank you!) to send me a transfer of the Eurodisc pressing of side 2, track one, and confirmed that it does have the correct ending, and I’ve now patched the correct version into my files. Thanks catching to “Gijs” in his comment below, which alerted me to the error, and to the fact that the Eurodisc version containing the correct ending!
Obviously, the above is old news, but here are new links!