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Nikolai Golovanov Great Condu


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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 2 2002)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B00005V33I
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #147,462 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Symphony No.6 In C Minor, Op.58: I Adagio - Allegro Passionato
2. Symphony No.6 In C Minor, Op.58: II Tema Con Variazioni
3. Symphony No.6 In C Minor, Op.58: III Intermezzo. Allegretto
4. Symphony No.6 In C Minor, Op.58: IV Finale. Andante Maestoso
5. A Midsummer Night's Dream: Overture
6. A Midsummer Night's Dream: Scherzo
7. Ouverture Solennelle '1812', Op.49
8. Orpheus, S98 Symphonic Poem
Disc: 2
1. Heroide Funebre, S102 Heroide Funebre, S102 Symphonic Poem
2. Mazeppa, S100 Heroide Funebre, S102 Heroide Funebre, S102 Symphonic Poem
3. Festklange, S101 Mazeppa, S100 Heroide Funebre, S102 Heroide Funebre, S102 Symphonic Poem
4. Prometheus, S99 Festklange, S101 Mazeppa, S100 Heroide Funebre, S102 Heroide Funebre, S102 Symphonic Poem

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Format: Audio CD
It's sad that the "Great Conductors of the 20th Century" reissue series has not gotten more notice on Amazon and in other places, because it has my vote for the best reissue program thus far of the 21st Century. Drawing from the archives of all the major classical labels (EMI, Sony, BMG, DG, Decca, Philips, Supraphon, etc.), EMI and IMG Artists have assembled a wonderful series of affordable two-disc sets by the leading conductors of the last century. And unlike its counterpart, "The Great Pianists of the 20th Century," which are basically compilations of material already available on other CDs, the "Great Conductors" features rare and, for the most part, previously unreleased performances!
This particular CD, Volume 8, features the great Nikolai Golovanov, long time conductor of both the Bolshoi Theatre and the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra. As Golovanov died in 1953 before the dawn of the stereo age, the performances presented here are all in mono but don't let that disappoint you. His grasp of Russian material is of course first rate, and the performances of Glazunov's undeservedly neglected Sixth Symphony and Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture are stunning. But Golovanov was a master of the classic repertoire as well as his recording of Mendelssohn's Overture and Scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream attest. The real treat here though is the Liszt, which comprises more than half of this collection. Golovanov was in fact the first to record all of Liszt's Symphonic Poems on LP, and five of them are included here. While I have not heard Masur's account of these works, I do have Haitink's, and Golovanov's are every bit their equal despite the mono sound.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Golovanov's Artistry In Decent CD Transfers May 25 2005
By Jeffrey Lipscomb - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
As the CD notes here by Rob Cowan observe, "Learning a work through a Golovanov interpretation is, in a sense, like confronting its prompting inspiration head on. And while roughshod orchestral playing and indifferent recorded sound can, on occasion, leave a bewildering impression, the 'charcoal sketch' nature of Golovanov's best performances makes even familiar music sound fresh-minted." Amen to that, Mr. Cowan. I have collected nearly everything Golovanov ever recorded, starting with miserably-pressed Soviet LPs purchased in the 1970's, most of them acquired from then-importer Four Continents Book & Record Shop during visits to Manhattan.

Perhaps you should be forewarned: many listeners do NOT share my affection for Golovanov's visionary, uninhibited, wildly impassioned and very subjective conducting. In fact, Jed Distler's damning review of these CDs (a '2' rating on a scale of 1 to 10) at classicstoday concludes by saying "Anyone who buys this revolting release deserves it!" Well, what Mr. Distler hears as REVOLTING sounds utterly REVOLUTIONARY to my ears. Golovanov even achieves what I previously had thought was an impossible task: he makes Glazunov's intractable 6th Symphony sound like a masterpiece!

As usual, IMG has done a strange job of assembling what it feels is a "representative" collection of a conductor's artistry. Why, for example, do we get so much Liszt here - or, for that matter, so little. Golovanov (1891-1953, student of Ippolitov-Ivanov) recorded all of Liszt's tone poems (I have most of the others on Melodiya LPs, and generally IMG's transfers of just five of them here are quite good). So we have SOME but not ALL of Golovanov's Liszt here - either IMG should have given us ALL of them, or just selected ONE (perhaps the Orpheus, a fascinating contrast to Beecham's) and moved on to more diverse examples of Golovanov's repertoire. Fond as I am of these Mendelssohn selections, they certainly lack the quicksilver delicacy one hears in versions by Maag, Kletzki and Schuricht. The live 1812 Overture is wonderfully over the top and exciting, but it has already appeared in better sound on the Boheme CD label, coupled with Golovanov's UNIQUE Tchaikovsky Pathetique (see my review).

I am grateful that IMG had the good sense to include Golovanov in this series (IMG's omission of such important conductors as De Sabata, Knappertsbusch, Abendroth, and Silvestri was an egregious oversight). Golovanov was a tremendously important and influential conductor (clearly Svetlanov, Kondrashin and Khaikin learned a lot from him style-wise). Unlike Mravinsky, who confined himself to orchestral repertoire, Golovanov was also Russia's leading opera maestro. He recorded the first-ever (and best-ever) recordings of "Boris" and Rimsky-Korsakov's "Sadko," plus several other Russian operas.

Here are some magnificent recordings that should have been considered for a more encompassing portrait of Golovanov at his best. Many of these are now out of print, so their inclusion by IMG would have been most welcome.

1. Borodin's 2nd Symphony - one of the greatest readings of ANYTHING ever recorded. It was formerly on a Multisonic CD, coupled with a fine Rostropovich/Sanderling account of Prokofiev's Symphony-Concerto (see my review).

2. Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition: Golovanov's reading simply puts everybody else's in the shade. It was once available on an Arlecchino CD with thrilling accounts of Night on Bald Mountain, the Prelude to Khovanschchina, the Polonaise from Boris Godunov, and Taneyev's rare Cantata.

3. Grieg's In Autumn, Peer Gynt Suites 1 & 2, the Lyric Suite, and A Swan were all once on Arlecchino. These constitute the best case for Grieg as a master composer that I have ever heard.

4. All the Liszt tone poems that Golovanov recorded were formerly on Arlecchino. These readings simply blow away the timid Haitink and tepid Masur accounts, which were conducted with all the enthusiasm of someone changing a baby's extremely soiled diaper.

5. Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade (with David Oistrakh, no less, as violin soloist) was also on Arlecchino.

6. Scriabin's Piano Concerto (with soloist Heinrich Neuhaus, teacher of Richter & Gilels) was until recently available on a Multisonic "Russian Treasures" CD, coupled with superb versions of Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations and Saint-Saens' 1st Cello Concerto (both with Sergei Knushevitsky and the Moscow Radio conducted by Alexander Gauk). I prefer this lyrical account of the Scriabin to the Solomon/Dobrowen reading on Testament but, unfortunately, both of those recordings suffer from poor sound.

7. Rachmaninov's 3rd Symphony was on Arlecchino - a scorching performance that ranks with Koussevitzky's & the composer's own. What a shame that Golovanov never recorded the Symphonic Dances - but at least we have BMG's great account by Kondrashin.

8. Tchaikovsky's Symphony #1 "Winter Dreams," a fabulous reading, was coupled with that composer's rare cantata "Moscow" on a Dante/LYS CD.

9.. Many of Golovanov's greatest recordings (in their best transfers) can still be found on the Boheme CD label. These include his extraordinarily subjective Pathetique, Scriabin's Symphonies, a brilliant Rachmaninov Symphony #2, Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini, Kalinnikov's 1st Symphony, and other works.

10. Hopefully, other rarities will surface on CD, such as Beethoven's 1st Symphony and the Triple Concerto with Oistrakh/Knushevitsky/Oborin (on 78s that I have never heard), his Wagner Overtures, and Tchaikovsky's Marche Slav.

If you are in the mood for a string of stunning epiphanies, simply go out and buy this CD set. But be prepared to brace yourself: this is powerful stuff!

Highly recommended.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Let's go completely overboard, shall we? May 5 2011
By Alexander Arsov - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Admittedly, it's pretty difficult not to loose one's head about Golovanov's explosive artistry - especially if one happens to be a Lisztian. I understand in 1952-53 he recorded all twelve symphonic poems from the Weimar years, but the five included here are more or less the only ones available today. I may safely say that this is a crime against music. I had never ever even heard of Nikolai Golovanov before listening to these recordings, but now I have no hesitation to rank him among the finest Lisztians on record, and a fellow well worth checking out in any other repertoire as well. Since I have never much cared about Mendelssohn's music to 'A Midsummer's Night Dream', let alone about Glazunov's workmanlike yet dull symphonies, this review will be concerned solely with Liszt's symphonic poems, by the far the most compelling discovery on record I have made for quite some time.

(In passing it might be remarked that Tchaikovsky's overture included here is a tremendous travesty since its final was actually substituted with music by Glinka. This, of course, had nothing to do with Golovanov, but everything to do with the Communist morons who ruled the Soviet Union at the time and for whom the Tsarist associations of Tchaikovsky's original finale were completely unacceptable. As a kind of historical curiosity, an incorruptible witness of vastly corrupt times, the overture makes a fascinating listening. Golovanov's interpretation is, naturally, impressive, to say the least. By the way, the CDs come with excellent liner notes which offer an extensive biographical essay and make a very strong case that stitching Tchaikovsky and Glinka must have been the least of Golovanov's problems.)

Golovanov's Liszt has been an amazing revelation. It is notoriously well-known that Liszt has suffered for quite a few generations - and continues to suffer indeed - a most unfortunate double negative fate, namely that most of his music is never played, his orchestral music at any rate, and when it is, the performances usually range from decent to dismal. How astonishing that back in the early 1950s - and in the Soviet Union at that - there was a man who was so dedicated to Liszt and, moreover, who could interpret his music with all but unprecedented force. Golovanov's approach to Liszt's symphonic poems is completely original and, so far as I know, without analogue on record. My only qualm is his rushing the main theme in 'Heroide Funebre'; such thing just doesn't suit a funeral march at all. That said, Golovanov's rendition has nothing to do with Masur's abomination which is way faster and more ridiculous. Furthermore, the Russian conductor treats the second subject, one of Liszt's most beautiful themes, and especially the brooding finale, definitely one of Liszt's creepiest and most haunting moments, in a truly admirable manner.

Speaking of breakneck tempi, they are quite typical for Golovanov and in this respect his 'Mazeppa' must be heard to be believed. After hearing Karajan's superb recording with the Berliner Philharmoniker (made for DG in 1961), I didn't expect ever to hear any other which would even remotely match his combination of power and musicality. Yet Golovanov does. His 'Mazeppa' could not possibly have been more different than Karajan's. It is way faster, for one thing; consider the timings: they are almost identical actually - but Golovanov takes the repeat in the finale. But fast tempi, of course, don't make a great interpretation. Indeed, they often ruin it, and 'Mazeppa' is a fine example of that. In the hands of Herman Scherchen such furious tempi make the poem sound like a piece of pure orchestral junk; it sounds 'vulgar, shallow and bombastic', as so often has been described by Liszt-bashers or misguided Lisztians. The unbelievable thing about Golovanov is that he combines great speed with impeccable musicianship. There is absolutely nothing 'vulgar, shallow and bombastic' in his recording. Quite on the contrary: there is Romantic grandeur that fully matches the madness of Victor Hugo's eponymous poem (quoted in the score by way of preface). In short, outstanding and unforgettable recording that bears one listening after another: a never-ending source of fascination to marvel at.

The rest three symphonic poems are every bit as spectacular. Golovanov's incandescent 'Prometheus' makes Solti's excellent recording (DECCA, 1977) sounds uncommonly dull. The liveliness and charm, the lilting rhythm, of 'Festklänge' puts the fine performances of Arpad Joo and Bernard Haitink to shame. 'Orpheus' makes the legendary Beecham sound exaggerated and mannered. When he wants, Golovanov can, and does, slow down, creating some of the most gorgeous sound ever achieved in these works.

Speaking of sound, I pity with all my heart those who 'can't get past the sound', as another reviewer has charmingly put it. Fellows, you don't know what you're missing! By modern standards the sound is pretty poor, of course, and if one suffers from that horrible disease called audophilism, he is likely to find it insufferable. Yes, the dynamic range is rather limited, the balance between the instruments is far from perfect and, worst of all, the brass is almost always dismally blaring. For my part, however, I can think of very few instances where inferior sound is so completely obliterated by outstanding interpretation. Frankly, listening to Golovanov's Liszt, I couldn't care less about utterly mundane stuff like sound quality. As a matter of fact, the sound is not so bad; it is a fine vintage mono from the early 1950s, far removed from the truly unbearable orchestral stuff from the dawn of the electrical recordings (late 1920s - early 1930s); the strings, for the most part, are particularly well recorded, with deep sonority that one doesn't always find in much more modern recordings. If you are not addicted to digital wonders and have some experience with mono sound, your ears are not likely to suffer much, if at all. As for the orchestral playing, it does lapse into sloppiness occasionally, but on the whole it is remarkably fine, especially considering Golovanov's usual treatment of 'allegro' as 'prestissimo furioso'. He certainly had a fine orchestra at his disposal. If he'd only had 'Western' recording opportunities...

Anyway, the mediocre sound is a very small price to pay for such originality of conception and power of execution. Looking to what I've written above, it is obvious that I've done exactly what I promised half-jokingly in the title. But I offer no apology for that: if you hear these recordings, you will know why. Highly recommended. Especially for Lisztians.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Great Conductors of 20th Century = Best Reissues of the 21st May 26 2003
By Michael Brad Richman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
It's sad that the "Great Conductors of the 20th Century" reissue series has not gotten more notice on Amazon and in other places, because it has my vote for the best reissue program thus far of the 21st Century. Drawing from the archives of all the major classical labels (EMI, Sony, BMG, DG, Decca, Philips, Supraphon, etc.), EMI and IMG Artists have assembled a wonderful series of affordable two-disc sets by the leading conductors of the last century. And unlike its counterpart, "The Great Pianists of the 20th Century," which are basically compilations of material already available on other CDs, the "Great Conductors" features rare and, for the most part, previously unreleased performances!
This particular CD, Volume 8, features the great Nikolai Golovanov, long time conductor of both the Bolshoi Theatre and the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra. As Golovanov died in 1953 before the dawn of the stereo age, the performances presented here are all in mono but don't let that disappoint you. His grasp of Russian material is of course first rate, and the performances of Glazunov's undeservedly neglected Sixth Symphony and Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture are stunning. But Golovanov was a master of the classic repertoire as well as his recording of Mendelssohn's Overture and Scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream attest. The real treat here though is the Liszt, which comprises more than half of this collection. Golovanov was in fact the first to record all of Liszt's Symphonic Poems on LP, and five of them are included here. While I have not heard Masur's account of these works, I do have Haitink's, and Golovanov's are every bit their equal despite the mono sound.
Whether you are a serious collector of classical music or a beginner, the "Great Conductors of the 20th Century" has something for everyone. If the prized, rare performances previously unreleased on CD (or ever!) doesn't excite you, then use this as an opportunity to check out one of the greatest conductors ever recorded. Since stores are offering increasingly homogenized classical music sections, this conductor may not be in your collection, and that would truly be a shame.
4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Can't get past the sound Oct. 17 2004
By Blu-ray Bill - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Like the previous reviewer, I'm a great admirer of the Great Conductors of the 20th Century series. The few I've bought (Stokowski, Markevitch, Mitropoulos) have been exceptional: startlingly good sound and stellar performances.

Unfortunately, I found this installment to be an exception. I'm fairly tolerant of variable sound, since many of my CDs are of older performances recorded live. The sound here, especially when you consider it's mainly from the 1950s, is barely up to 1927 quality; it's severely constricted and easily overloaded. For me, it took away whatever pleasure I might have derived from the performance itself.

Still, if you remain undeterred by that caveat, then do plunk down your change -- these two-CD sets are very inexpensive.


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