Nikolai Golovanov. Liszt Symphonic Poems (1952/53 Melodiya recordings)

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
4. Orpheus
5. Prometheus
6. Mazeppa
7. Festklänge
8. Héroïde Funèbre
9. Hungaria
10. Hamlet
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!


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17 Responses to Nikolai Golovanov. Liszt Symphonic Poems (1952/53 Melodiya recordings)

  1. Anonymous says:

    That is some raw and exciting brass playing! Thank you very much for these recordings.Best,WM

  2. Fred says:

    Neal,Thanks for these. They were available on european Archive albeit in less then adequate sound. I would consider these to be important, pathbreaking recordings.Fred

  3. Phillip says:

    What a fascinating set this looks to be. Thanks so much.

  4. tony says:

    I just listened to Les Préludes. Brilliant stuff! Tremendous!

  5. Gijs says:

    Thanks Neal!These are indeed a big improvement on the European Archive (great site as well nevertheless) versions. However, Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne seems to be truncated here, the last few minutes are missing. At least this is the case with the flac versions (Rapidshare as well as Megaupload).Anyway, thanks for all your posts, I enjoy them very much.Gijs

  6. Neal says:

    You have got to be kidding! That's how the Melodiya pressing ended of Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne, but it is odd, because at the point of the side break (near the end) the recording differs from the score that I have (there ARE 3 versions of the work)….I'll investigate, and if I can I'll patch the end in from the Eurodisc version. Thanks!

  7. Neal says:

    OK, here's what is going on in "Ce qu'on", and it's rather incredible….at 27:40, side one ends. As I mentioned, the last 4 or so minutes (on side 2) did not follow consecutively from the score….well, side 2 of the Melodiya pressing repeats what is 11:15 to 15:15 of side one, so the ENDING IS MISSING! I just confirmed that the Eurodisc side 2 does have the correct ending, but I'll have to patch it in from that source…the Melodiya pressing is completely missing the end!!! Thanks for catching this…I kept looking at the score, and somehow only now figured this mystery out!!!

  8. pilgrim says:

    Yep, moved further down the posts and realised that you might already have read the post.(Blonde moment!)Many kind regards for all the music so far, and all the great posts to come.PS, how about some Mitropoulos?RegardsAndy

  9. squirrel says:

    Neal – great stuff! I look forward to discovering these. Prometheus and Tasso have long been favorites of mine and I enjoy an opportunity to hear unknown versions. cheers –

  10. Gijs says:

    Incredible indeed, Melodiya seems to have added some extreme individualism of their own on top of Golovanov's…Thanks for the research!Gijs

  11. Anonymous says:

    Glorious stuff — thank you for uploading this. Any idea as to why the last symphonic poem, "Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe," was not recorded?

  12. Neal says:

    That last symphonic poem was published much later than the original 12, and I guess Golovanov did not consider it part of the cycle.

  13. Dodorock says:

    So far I listened to "Ce qu'on entend sur la Montagne". With or without the end. I find the sound natural, well balanced and impressive for the time or very well restored, the conductor galvanising the orchestra, surging strings and strong brass. It gives me also the will to acquire the recordings Peter Maag made of Liszt Poems at that era (though I do not know whether he recorded this particular piece) with Société des Concerts Orchestra. I am very grateful to you again

  14. Olde Edo says:

    Thank you for this, Neal! I just gave a listen to the best known, Les Preludes, and I am totally PUMPED! I really want to eat a bowl of good ramen!!! Then round up Tonto and ride off to Mongo to save Dale Arden from the evil Emperor Ming!!!
    So, I can attest to the success of Golovanov’s interpretation… 🙂

  15. Gijs says:

    Thanks for the corrections! Very reassuring (and enjoyable!) to hear Ce qu’on entend sur la montagne in its proper version.

  16. W. Uriel says:

    Hi Neal–
    Thanks very much for your hard work and very fine results; these Liszt performances are quite amazing.
    In view of the recent Megaupload forced shutdown, and resulting Fileserve and Filesonic actions, I would appreciate being included in your future private blog, if that comes to pass.

    Thanks very much

  17. william says:

    Wonderful blog, too bad i only found it today!

    But thanks for sharing so many interesting recordings.

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