Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Symphonic Dances

Rite of Spring

London SO/Eugene Goossens
rec Walthamstow, London, Nov 1958 (Rite); Feb 1960 (Dances)
EVEREST EVC 9002 [69.47]
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As a demonstration of the Omega Record Group's skill at remastering the superb half inch three track originals into 20 bit SBM this evinces the highest standards. Hiss is defeated and hitting power is preserved. The massed strings communicate well allowing for some shrillness under pressure. Dynamic range is wide as is demonstrated from the very start of track 1. The weakness lies in laid back and overly suave interpretations. Goossens conducting the Symphonic Dances in February 1960 was already very ill. He was to die barely four months later. Where the performance should be taut, hunted and haunted this is in cruise control. Now if you compare Kondrashin, Ashkenazy or even Previn or Ormandy you will capture more of the nightmare and romance of this work which is amongst the very finest penned by Rachmaninov. Goossens (ever the colourist) brings out the voice of Rimsky-Korsakov rather than the verismo ice and lightning of the mature Rachmaninov.

Goossens was famed for his Rite of Spring. He had a real taste for balletic music and in the early 1920s his eponymous orchestra made a renewed impact with the Rite in concert at the Queen's Hall. Here he is almost forty years later relishing every sour and scabrous note captured in a massive acoustic that etiolates some of the impact unless you play at high volume. He is however much more 'at the heels' of this music (11.40 and 16.00 track 1 where the 'young' Goossens is at the helm with imagination on fire) than he is in the case of the Rachmaninov. There is some adept playing from the woodwind but this still not quite the 'full article' and the lack of unanimity in The Adoration at 8.20 is one example. Natural sound silkily communicated but not a high recommendation in the face of any of Haitink's versions, to take one example.

Rob Barnett

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