Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Reviews from other months
EUGENE GOOSSENS (1893-1962) Symphony No 2 (1944)  Concertino (1927)  Fantasy for Nine Winds (1924) Sydney SO/Vernon Handley. ABC CLASSICS 442 364-2.[61.57]

Order through the ABC Shop's Online service at:



Goossens has received very little attention as a composer since the advent of the CD. This CD and others in the series is available only as an import from Australia. You can order it direct from ABC using your credit card either over the internet or by fax. ABC are currently looking at their distribution arrangements in the UK.

The Symphony No 2 was written in Maine, Seattle, New York and Cincinnati. Here it gets its first commercial recording albeit from a concert performance (not that that factor dilutes the obvious technical and artistic strengths of this muscial event - quite the opposite in fact - a real sense of occasion is conveyed) complete with applause. The audience is otherwise unobtrusive.

The artists project Goossens' own brand of brooding and astringent lyricism with great power. The work does however need repeated hearings. The language is slightly more oblique than the franker heroics of Symphony No 1 (1940) from which it is separated by only five years. The darkness of the piece reflects the war years as the composer seems to admit in his programme note. Occasionally Nielsen, Bax and even Rawsthorne are suggested but these are passing impressions. Sample the start of the symphony: a sinuous bassoon theme climbing out of subterranean depths. Aspiring, straining, Scriabinesque trumpet calls are a feature of the second movement at 6.40. The folk song The Turtle Dove casts its spell over the slow movement. This symphony was first performed by the BBCSO/composer (People's Palace, London, 2.11.1946).

The more Goossens you listen to the more is his voice revealed as distinctive and strongly atmospheric. There are many beautiful moments here.

The Concertino for strings is propulsive, lively and buoyant. It began life in 1928 for string octet. You may well have heard it broadcast on the BBC some years ago. The Fantasy (1924) is, by turns, Russian-exotic, folksy and Grainger-like. It is the "through a glass darkly" folk-song element which, for me, marks out Goossens' music. There is something in the Fantasy of Frank Bridge of There is a Willow.

An excellent Goossens introduction. A pity that the CD is not available more easily outside Australia.

Will ABC now oblige with the two Phantasy Concertos, piano (1944, suggested by an Edgar Allan Poe tale) and violin (1948), perhaps coupled with the Lyric Poem for violin and orchestra (1919), Three Pictures for flute, strings and percussion (1935)?

This disc is most warmly recommended. If you enjoy, Bax, Szymanowski, Scriabin, Schmitt and the French voluptuaries this disc is for you. Glorious!


Rob Barnett

Prices from ABC Classics
Orders can be placed by E-MAIL from Steven Godbee, ABC Classics, ph + 61 2 9950 3969 fax + 61 2 9950 3886

Order through the ABC Shop's Online service at:


Rob Barnett

Return to Index