Nikolai Golovanov — a conductor, choirmaster and composer, People’s Artist of the USSR and Honored Artist of the RSFSR. He was four-time Stalin Prize winner: in 1946 — for concerts and performances, in 1949— for performance of Boris Godunov opera by M. Mussorgsky, in 1950 — for performance of Sadko opera by N. Rimsky-Korsakov, in 1951— for performance of Khovanshchina opera by M. Mussorgsky. N. Golovanov was also awarded the Order of Lenin, Order of the Red Banner of Labor, Medal “For the Defense of Moscow” and Medal “For Valiant Labor in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945”. Nikolai Golovanov was born on 9 (21) January 1891 in Moscow. Upon graduating from the Synodal School in 1909, he was appointed as Assistant Precentor of the Synodal Choir and a teacher at the Synodal School. Then Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia invited him to the position of the Precentor at Marfo-Mariinsky Convent’s Choir.
«The Synodal School has taught me everything: the moral stand, life principles, castiron discipline and sacred love for labor...»
During the World War II, he stayed in Moscow together with his wife. The funds received from concerts were transferred for the war needs. The Golovanov’s highest achievements as a conductor were strongly concerned with the Russian opera. He was also an outstanding interpreter of contemporary music and the first who performed some works by S. Prokofiev and D. Shostakovich. The Golovanov’s composition heritage is diverse and covers operas, symphony, cantatas, pieces for choir and symphony orchestra, romances — many of them are dedicated to his wife Antonina Nezhdanova. Sergei Kondrashev, the art director and chief conductor of the Radio “Orpheus” Symphony Orchestra, who, together with the orchestra, has recorded the Golovanov’s works, said about his symphonic music: “...I think that first of all Nikolai Golovanov is an outstanding Russian conductor, a star in the constellation of great musicians who headed the Bolshoi Theatre in the XX century. The magnitude of his personality is clearly seen in the symphony works. Golovanov was a musician, a colorful and rich artist! While listening to his symphony pieces we can imagine masterpieces of such great artists of Russia as Vasnetsov and Bilibin. This effect is gained due to the large scale and specific brilliance of his scores’ sound, we can feel exaggerated brass, sharp dynamic and tempo darts. Everything serves one purpose to intensify expression and create that special colorful sound. Furthermore, we should not forget about the unique melodic gift of Golovanov as a composer.
There is no doubt he knew the works of his contemporaries — Scriabin and Rachmaninoff. The harmonic language of those authors, the texture specifics are very close to what Golovanov created. Considering the distinctiveness of his composing pattern reflecting ecstatic, impulsive and immense creative personality, Nikolai Golovanov is clearly a successor to traditions of the Russian composing school ...” Even in the Soviet period Nikolai Golovanov continued to compose the church music. Lev Kontorovich, the People’s Artist of Russia, art director and chief conductor of the Grand Choir “Masters of Choral Singing”, Professor, said about Golovanov’s composition works: “... I would like to draw the attention to the last 39th opus “Peaceful Light” recorded on this disc, where Golovanov achieved absolute perfection of his masterfulness. I believe this piece dedicated to Rachmaninoff is the Golovanov’s magnum opus as far as his church music is concerned. Sorry for my presumption, but I think that perfect mastery of Golovanov in “Peaceful Light” equals to Rachmaninoff. This work is a highest masterpiece...” Nikolai Golovanov died on 28 August 1953 in Nikolina Gora village, Moscow region, and was buried at Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow. In 1961 a commemorative plaque was installed on the house where Nikolai Golovanov lived in 1935–1953. (7, Bryusov Pereulok, today a memorial flat-subsidiary of the M.I. Glinka All-Russian Museum Association of Musical Culture).