This is a blazingly individual Pathétique and a must-hear for all Tchaikovskians with ears able to tolerate raw and virile Soviet
The Pathétique recording has been available
before on Boheme Russian Classical
Collection CDBMR GOLO1. There the coupling was a startlingly
fervent 1812; as it turns out a less generous pairing
than offered here. One wonders - and hopes - that there is much
more to come from Golovanov (1891-1953)
perhaps in the various state radio strong rooms or family collections.
In the Symphony
Golovanov holds the listener's attention in a relentless grip
right from the start. We have to contend with a degree of analogue
hiss and at one moment in the first movement something that
sounds like cross-talk. On the other hand this 1948 recording
is forthright and at your shoulder. The reading is full of individual
touches including the way he makes the orchestra scud with increasing
urgency or even hysteria in the first movement.
You may well be
astonished by the extent to which Golovanov
re-emphasises all Tchaikovsky's little accelerations and holdings-back.
It's invigorating and fresh in its effect. Time-worn musical
phrases are constantly revisited. In the third movement at 2:21
for example the trudging figure is sculpted with a close-up
eye to detail and needle sharp definition. Golovanov
was only 57 when he made this recording and was in vigorous
form despite being within five years of his death in the same
year as Stalin and Prokofiev.
Overall I was very
pleased to be encountering this recording again. By contrast
with the Boheme CD (no longer
available) - and I speak from my fallible memory here - this version is less processed. There is a slight
hiss here, a tizz of micro-level distortion
that suggests that sound engineer Rouslan
Kryachko might have been a shade less interventionist than
the excellent Boheme crew.
Unlikely to be a first
choice for any but the most personal of libraries but as a second
version this Pathétique has much to tell us about a disturbing
style of performance. There is much to enjoy. The occasional cough
in The Tempest near the start, only serves to emphasise
the fallible humanity of the endeavour. As a tone poem The
Tempest is closer to the Russian nationalism that Tchaikovsky
tried to distance himself. Yet it also carries echoes of another
Shakespeare play which captivated the composer: Romeo and Juliet,
written three years earlier. It may at times sound like a limbering
up Hamlet yet it is a fully formed work with many characteristic
touches along the way. The love theme, presumably for Miranda,
at 12:55 is classic stuff. In Golovanov's
hands this neglected tone poem demands to be heard.