Nikolai Golovanov

For other people named Golovanov, see Golovanov.

Nikolai Semyonovich Golovanov (Russian: Николай Семёнович Голованов, Nikoláy Semyónovich Golovánov) ([o.s. 9] 21 January 1891 28 August 1953) was a Soviet conductor and composer, who was married to the soprano Antonina Nezhdanova.

He conducted the premiere performances of a number of works, among them Nikolai Myaskovsky's Sixth Symphony in May 1924.[1]

Golovanov held some of the highest musical positions in the USSR, including an extensive association with the Bolshoi Opera. In her autobiography, Galina Vishnevskaya terms him the theater's chief conductor, and tells of his dismissal from the Bolshoi and his death - which she attributed to the humiliation of the experience of losing this position. It has been reported that Golovanov's firing was the result of Stalin's displeasure at Golovanov's having tried to use a Jewish singer, Mark Reizen, in the title role of Tsar Boris Godunov in his recording of Mussorgsky's opera. Golovanov actually did record the opera with Reizen as Boris, but later remade Reizen's part with another Boris, Alexander Pirogov.

Golovanov's recorded output was substantial and quite individual in interpretive approach. In his discography we find all but one of the Liszt tone poems, the complete Scriabin symphonies and Piano Concerto, Tchaikovsky's First and Sixth symphonies, as well as shorter works, Beethoven's First Symphony, Violin Concerto and Triple Concerto, Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade and his operas Sadko and Christmas Eve, Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov and Pictures at an Exhibition, Rachmaninoff's Second and Third symphonies, the opera Aleko and other compositions, Glazunov's Fifth, Sixth and Seventh symphonies, and scores by Grieg, Mozart and others. Based upon the evidence of his recordings, Golovanov's characteristic performance mode was full-blooded and nearly vehement in tone, with a powerful, almost overloaded sense of sonority, and extreme flexibility in matters of tempo, phrasing and dynamics.

Golovanov was also a composer; his works include the opera "Princess Yurata", a symphony and other orchestral works.[2]


Preceded by
Alexander Orlov
Music Directors, Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio
Succeeded by
Aleksandr Gauk
Preceded by
Ari Pazovsky
Music Directors, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
Succeeded by
Alexander Melik-Pashayev

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