Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

TCHAIKOVSKY Francesca da Rimini
Great SO of All-Union Radio and Central TV rec 1949
Symphony No. 1 (1895)
USSR State Academic Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra rec 1945 conducted by Nikolai Golovanov (1891-1953)
Historical Golovanov series - mono recordings BOHEME Russian Classical Collection CDBMR GOLO2 [61.36]

This is a significant release for those intent on charting the recording history of one of the USSR's most intriguing conductors. The disc is distinguished by the first publication of the Kalinnikov symphony. While not likely to be an obvious choice for the first time buyer in this repertoire, the spirit of the music-making is worth the attention of Francesca fanciers, Kalinnikov capos and Golovanov collectors.

The Francesca does not have the hothouse power of Stokowski (Everest or Dell'Arte) or the impulsive rip and roar of Mravinsky (BMG-Melodiya) still less the overpowering rush of Ahronovitch (LSO performance broadcast by the BBC in 1980). This is a performance which joys in the broader and more succulent moments and which enlivens these with an intensely adventurous and extreme attitude to the accelerating and slowing of the music. Tenderness is certainly in evidence as in the clarinet playing at 10.24 and the flute playing at 17.19. In truth, despite some nice cackling brashness from the horns, tempestuous unanimity from the strings and coal-seam belligerence from the trombones, this never quite coheres as a whole.

Both works are in historic mono. Boheme have cleaned up the sound as far as they can but the 'core' sound has little inherent richness - unlike the Golovanov Pathétique also on Boheme. You need to listen with toleration and more forbearance is required in the case of the Kalinnikov which rustles with background noise. This is a pity as Golovanov gives the symphony pliancy and emphasis. The Kalinnikov is a work influenced by Borodin, sunnily passionate in its long string themes with just a touch of Tchaikovskian urgency. In the andante Golovanov pitches vulnerably close to inaudibility in the affecting string landscape pepped up by oriental spices. The allegro non troppo is a wheezy Russian Easter celebration. The finale echoes with flaring foot-tapping fantasy.

This is a good symphony of the second rank. Hearing it in this sympathetic performance I wondered again at the neglect of Kopylov's even stronger (but quite unknown) symphony which is available on ASV.

The documentation for Boheme discs (except their musically strong Rachmaninov complete songs) is amongst the best I have seen - a model to other swimmers in these waters. I hope that Boheme will be able to secure a licence for a reissue of Golovanov in Glazunov symphonies 5, 6 and 7. Now that would be an event!


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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