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Great Conductors of the 20th Century: Nikolai Golovanov Original recording remastered

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, June 4, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

Contains rare material previously unreleased on CD.
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Nikolai Golovanov
  • Composer: Alexander Glazunov, Felix Mendelssohn, Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky, Franz Liszt
  • Audio CD (June 4, 2002)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B00005V33I
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,579 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Jeffrey Lipscomb on May 25, 2005
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).
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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.
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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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