Russian classical music is a treasure trove of great art and emotional experiences. But one conductor, in spite of having a career that predated the age of hi-fi and stereophonic recordings remains a one of a kind in the long history of great Russian maestros.
Nikolai Golovanov led the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra between 1937 and 1953. He additionally led the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra between 1948 and 1953.
Golovanov’s superlative artistry made every one of his performances unique to those of his contemporaries and successors. Golovanov was a master of tempo rubato, the variation of a piece of music’s pulse to suit the emotional needs of every subsequent second.
His dynamic, impassioned performances are not to be missed. It makes listening to more mundane performances almost impossible to subsequently enjoy. Uniquely, Golovanov was not only a master of the Russian musical canon, but he also conducted the works of many European composers, always of course in his deeply unique.
Although his recorded output was minor compared to those who conducted in the age of the LP record and later the digital age, the recordings of Golovanov that do exist are not to be missed.
Here’s a helpful Spotify playlist of music conducted by the great Nikolai Golovanov.