Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Symphony No. 6 Pathétique (1893) 48.10
1812 Overture (1880) 14.47
Great SO of All-Union Radio and Central TV/Nikolai Golovanov
both rec 1948 Historical Golovanov series - mono recordings BOHEME Russian Classical Collection CDBMR GOLO1 [63.04]

The four Golovanov Boheme Scriabin discs pre-date the present release and yet this is GOLO1: numbered as the first of Boheme's Golovanov series.

Golovanov (1891-1953) is viscerally inspirational in the symphony. The world is already full to overflowing with Tchaikovsky Pathétiques and I have heard only the smallest fraction of these including the DG and BMG-Melodiya Mravinskys and the DG Abbado. However this previously unissued Golovanov holds you in thrall from the start.

You may well be astonished by the extent to which Golovanov pulls back, accelerates (listen to the whipper-snapper pizzicato at 6.20 in II), slows, hastens, stabs, accents and softens in ways you may not have come across before. Time-worn musical phrases are constantly re-sculpted and freshened - for example at 1.40 the paused surges of the strings in the Adagio lamentoso. These extremes may well be condemned by more fastidious souls but once in a while a break with traditional tolerances and the casting off of accustomed 'governors' do our appreciation of 'classics' the world of good. This style was presumably the established norm for Soviet audiences attending a Golovanov-directed concert.

This, as with the Golovanov Francesca disc, is unlikely to be a first choice for any but the most idiosyncratic of libraries but as a second version it has much to tell us about another and disturbing style of performance. There is much to enjoy and Boheme have done very well to drain off the accretion of background noise without blanching the intrinsic sound. There is also the occasional cough (but no applause) which only serves to emphasise the fallible humanity of this interpretation rather than breaking the spell of perfection.

The rustle of background activity also stirs the opening of 1812 which receives a characteristically enthusiastic performance (complete with applause this time) - with no suggestion of diffidence. Golovanov substitutes the 'Glory' theme from Glinka's A Life for the Tsar for the, as written but, in 1948, politically unacceptable, 'God Save the Tsar'.

The Boheme documentation is excellent - well designed and informative. Recommended, perhaps as a gift for the collector who has most things and who has already pigeon-holed the Pathétique as 'old-hat' - a work that can no longer hold surprises. Golovanov shows that surprises are still there amid some emotionally scarifying musical pleasure.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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