Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Symphony No. 2 (1907)
Great SO of All-Union Radio/Nikolai Golovanov
mono rec 1945 restored 2000

Boheme Music

Golovanov is receiving increasing praise as his recordings become less the preserve of connoisseurs warming their hearts over gritty Melodiya LPs and 78s and more the territory of the moderately persistent collector. Boheme have already given us some superb recordings including an incandescently exciting Pathétique and some fine Scriabin. Here his Rachmaninov 2 (cut, as was the habit) explodes onto the scene. The conductor's wayward approach to rhythm, speed and dynamism is the exact opposite of the rent-a-performance versions which jostle for space on the retailer's shelves. This is nothing if not idiosyncratic and for once the epithet is not a euphemism for poor or eccentric.

I have never heard the great adagio done with such steppe tenderness and a sense of hushed expectation. The recording shows its 55 years in the grittiness of the strings but the recreative mind soon discards such surface impressions in the face of an emotive interpretation which is explosive, emotionally pliant, gruff in the barking brass and in the Allegro molto and allegro vivace at times so accelerated as to rush out at the hectic edges of the orchestra's control. In the finale I felt that this was too much of a good thing. At 2.19 when the music should have been allowed the expansive majesty guaranteed to it by Svetlanov and Previn it gabbles rather than breathes. Golovanov also adjusts here and there and this may occasionally bother the purist. The final bars are handled in a way I have never previously heard.

The Boheme series evinces the best of design judgement. The series really looks the part!

So what we have here is an archive recording in mono. It is extremely well restored and Golovanov's total embrace of the special musical experience is sensationally tangible. This CD cannot command an only-version recommendation (for that I would still recommend Previn). Lovers of Rachmaninov need to hear this performance. This is guaranteed to slough off any feeling of ennui.

Rob Barnett

Reviews from previous months

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