Golovanov was born in Moscow on 21 January
1891. He died on 28 August 1953, one
year after he was stripped of his chief
conductor role at the Bolshoi. Such
was the fate of those who fell from
Party favour. His conducting style helped
to shape both Samuel Samosud and Evgeny
smoke with fervour; crackle with galvanic
force. This can be heard in the wonderful
reissues from 1998-2000 (better
than the Arlecchino versions) as well
as this conductor’s volume (CZS
7243 5 75112 2 3) in the EMI/IMG
‘Great Conductors of the Century’ series.
Boheme gave us Golovanov’s Scriabin,
as well as his Mozart
Requiem, Every one of those recordings
speaks to the listener as an event -
not as a routine gap-filler. He seems
to have been immune from microphone
nerves although he must surely have
taken a Toscanini-like toll on the constitutions
of his comrade players.
All twelve of the Liszt tone poems were
orchestrated by Joachim Raff and dedicated
to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein. Prometheus
and Mazeppa were on the GCOTC
2CD set but the major Bergsymphonie
is, I think, new to CD. Golovanov
also recorded Orpheus; Héroïde
Tasso; Hungaria and Hunnenschlacht.
Whatever happened to Les Préludes?
Golovanov applies his usual intemperate
emotionalism to these faded scores.
He has the sonorous gift of making them
sound greater music than they are. When
you hear Golovanov take a score like
Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne by
the throat you wonder at the music.
He brings out so many aspects: rumbling
tension, brash triumphalism, romantic
Franckian gestures long before Franck's
first tone poem. The hurricane at 6.03
prefigures the whirlwinds of Tchaikovsky's
Francesca and of Sibelius's En
Saga. The awed tam-tam strokes at
7:47 and 9.30 evoke Rachmaninov's Isle
of the Dead and Tchaikovsky's Hamlet.
Berlioz's phantasmally brilliant imagination
seems also to be in the wings. Then
at 11.03 the restless skirling of the
strings recalls the scherzo of Scriabin's
First Symphony. Unlike other mountain
works (Novak's In the Tatras,
Delius's Song of the High Hills,
d'Indy's Symphonie sur Un Chant
Montagnard) this garrulous piece,
while strong on atmosphere and dramatic
incident, is stop-go and occasionally
resorts to the fragrant bombast of Les
Préludes (22:00 and 25:40).
It's an extraordinary work nevertheless
but there is an even better more concentrated
one somewhere in those pages.
Prometheus begins with the same
buzzing tension as Bergsymphonie.
Flames seem to lick the heels of the
orchestra in the first whooping allegro.
Mazeppa conveys the wild night
gallop in plunging figures which takes
us forward to Sibelius’s Lemminkainen
homeward journey. Then again the bombastic
element - with no punches pulled - casts
a pall over proceedings at 1:20. However
there are some gorgeous effects that
emerge without too much audio harm from
the ex-Melodiya LP grooves.
As an add-on we are given two Liszt
piano solos played by the very young
Emil Gilels. These are from 1946. The
sound is boxy and there is some gentle
distortion. All the same, Gilels' legerdemain
and weighty virtuosity are fully in
Archipel offer no annotation except
the usual discographical details. The
cover uses a nicely colourised picture
of Golovanov conducting. It was presumably
taken from a Melodiya LP sleeve.
After the recent recordings
of the piano concerto by another conductor
Issay Dobrowen and of the works of Klemperer,
Schnabel and Furtwängler, can we
hope for recordings of Golovanov’s own
music? There are two operas: The
Hero’s Tomb and Princess Yurata
as well as symphonies, the tone
poems Salome and From Verhaeren
and suites, songs and choral music.
If they breathe the same high octane
mix that he injected into his interpretations
of other composers’ music we are in
for something very special.
While this is a most
useful CD in making available the substantial
yet flawed Bergsymphonie the
way still lies open for a Golovanov
set of the Liszt tone poems.