Goossens in Cincinnati, Volume 1 = GRIEG: Peer Gynt Suite No. 1; DELIUS: Walk to the Paradise Garden; STRAVINSKY: Le Chant du Rossignol; CHABRIER: Marche Joyeuse; SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120 – Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Sir Eugene Goossens
Historic-Recordings HRCD 0056, 70:12 [www.historic-recordings.co.uk] ****:
Record collectors may well recall the old budget Camden LP label–which featured pseudonyms for several major symphony organizations–among them the “Cromwell Symphony Orchestra” instead of clearly identifying the work of Eugene Goossens (1893-1962), who led the Cincinnati Symphony from 1931-1946. Bill Anderson transfers a series of Goossens’ marvelously vivid, often emotionally pungent recordings in this first volume of performances, 1945-1946. Many would argue that Goossens’ inscription of Tchaikovsky’s “Little Russian” Symphony from this period marked the height of his accomplishment with the CSO in the recording studio.
The opening suite from Peer Gynt (25 January 1945) initiates us into the intensely lyrical world of the Goossens sound with four colorist movements, of which the “In the Hall of the Mountain King” sequence quite rattles our expectations, in spite of over-long familiarity. The pictorial delights of Delius’ Walk to the Paradise Garden (16 February 1946) from A Village Romeo and Juliet shimmer in lushly sultry, sonorous harmonies, belying the actual scene of the opera–a local tavern–wherein the two runaway lovers will do away with themselves.
Particularly effective, Stravinsky’s 1917 symphonic poem Le Chant du Rossignol (25 January 1945) has the Cincinnati strings, brass, and battery in full panoply, applying pentatonic scales and swooping chromatic lines to capture the eponymous song of the nightingale, both natural and mechanical, given the tale by Hans Christian Andersen. Listening to the wealth of rhythmic detail, we can well understand why Goossens would shine in a work like George Antheil’s Ballet Mecanique. We can likewise agree with one conductor’s assessment of Stravinsky’s work as “musical roughage” for an orchestra, to clear its discipline of slovenly intonation and faulty entries. From this same session, the Chabrier 1888 Marche Joyeuse plays as a gaudy complement to the Stravinsky, jaunty and irreverent.
Goossens leads a Schumann Fourth Symphony (14 February 1946) of striking power and grimly fixated impetus, funereal and grandly mounted. The string bass line compels our listening from the first; and when the blazing runs set in, they already leap and twitter in motions ripe for counterpoint. Occasionally, the streamlining transforms the opening music into a brilliant string, wind, and horn toccata, flattening the lyric effect. When the magic works, the effect can be quite exalted, linking the ambitions of the D Minor Symphony to the vaulted filigree of the Rhenish Symphony. Editor Anderson does well to cut directly into the A Minor Romanze without undue pause: the cloth is all the same, though the lovely violin runs with flute add a decided transparency to the otherwise somber tissue. The Scherzo exploits the power of the Cincinnati woodwinds; then, we must admire the horn, string, and tympani transition to the finale, a study in graduated power. Goossens injects what he can of jubilation into the recycled materials from the first movement, the slight marcato in the pace balancing the dance with the martial pageantry. Rarely have we been made so aware of Schumann’s use of Mannheim rockets to accelerate his motifs. The last pages achieve a wicked seed, a glorious testament to the virtuoso discipline of this ensemble under its gifted leader.