* SIR EUGENE GOOSSENS: Kaleidoscope; Tam O’Shanter; Three Greek Dances; Concert Piece Op. 65; Four Conceits; Variations on ‘Cadet Rousselle;’ Two Nature Poems; Intermezzo from ‘Don Juan de Manara’ – Soloists/Melbourne Sym. Orch./ Sir Andrew Davis – Chandos multichannel SACD CHSA 5119, 74:16 (4/26/13) [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
Most people know of Eugene Goossens as a leading British conductor of his time (he died in 1962); he conducted for Diaghilev’s ballets, among other things. Like Bernstein and Mahler he did double duty with conducting and composing. He conducted fine renditions of the Rite of Spring and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique on hi-res recordings (Classic Records) and we have reviewed many of his performances which are available on various historical labels. His music is not well known, but some reason it is venerated in Australia, and that explains this packed SACD of his works featuring the excellent Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. (There is also a 3-CD set of his works on ABC Classics in Australia.)
Chandos brought out some of his works about three years ago, and here finally is Volume 2. We have also reviewed recordings of his violin sonatas and other chamber works. Perhaps these will aid his being remembered as much for his compositions as his conducting. The Impressionists clearly were a model for his earlier compositions. There are four world premiere recordings on this disc: the Three Greek Dances are fascinating—they sound like something a modern dance performer would gyrate to. The Two Nature Poems come from 1937-38 and like the closing selection of a six-minute “Intermezzo” from Goossens’ opera on Don Juan, they change his style to that of his Expressionist composer friends, and are more atonal than his earlier works. The first of the Poems, titled “Pastoral,” is far from a typical instrumental English nature idyll, and its companion is a noisy and turbulent “Bacchanal.” These works, as well as the Four Conceits, were all originally composer for piano and were orchestrated by the composer, whose talent above all seems to have been superb and colorful orchestration.
The 22-minute Concert Piece is for two harps, oboe and English horn and is the last piece in the collection by Goossens, seen as the composer saying goodbye. Though somewhat atonal it is not as much as the works mentioned above. An unusual aspect of the work is that Goossens requests in the finale for the two harps to thread paper thru their strings to produce a percussive effect—which was not original but had been used by Bax and fellow conductor Sir Henry Wood.
Tam O’Shanter is wonderful rollicking Richard Strauss-type orchestral scherzo depicting the drunken Tam O’Shanter on his horse. Malcolm Arnold also wrote an overture on the same Robert Burns poem, and it’s enjoyable to compare the two. The opening work, Kaleidoscope, is Goossens’ orchestration of eight movements from an earlier solo piano suite he wrote for children. Only the last movement is over a minute, and two of the selections are less than a minute length. Some of the music was used for a ballet.
The performances are first rate, and Chandos’ 96K/24-bit 5.0 channel surround is excellent. The note booklet is highly detailed with information on all the works in the program.