Sir Eugène Goossens III (1893-1962)

Sir Eugène Goossens III (26 May 1893-13 June 1962) was the scion of a remarkable musical family. Eugène I left his native Belgium in 1873 and shortly thereafter joined the famous Carl Rosa opera company of England as a conductor, a post that was handed to Eugène II in due course. He, in turn was the father of Eugène III, and younger siblings Marie (who became a harpist), Adolphe (horn player, killed in WW I), Leon (famous oboe soloist) and Sidonie (harpist). Music can certainly said to run in the blood of this family!

Eugène III studied music in Belgium, Liverpool and London, where he learned composition from Charles Villiers Stanford. Although his first professional positions were as an orchestral violinist, exposure from youth to his father's opera rehearsals familiarized him with most of the standard opera repertoire.

Sir Thomas Beecham raised Goossens from the ranks to the podium at the age of 22, when in 1915 he tapped the newcomer to take over a production of Stanford's The Critic at the last moment. Later Goossens secured a conducting post at the British National Opera Company (1919- 23), and formed an orchestra of his own in 1921 devoted to new music of the time.

While Goossens the conductor was developing a reputation, he was well on the way to becoming one of the great hopes of contemporary British composition. In this he was not entirely successful, an innovator au courant with the newest trends who never really engaged the appreciation of the public. Still, he wrote in most forms and some of his chamber and orchestral works endure today (including recent recordings by major labels) should this aspect of his career be of interest. We are concerned here with his conducting.

As a next major step, Goossens crossed the Atlantic in 1923 to take up directorship of the new Rochester Philharmonic (and conducting teacher at the Eastman-Rochester School), where he remained for 8 years. His name was known across the United States through frequent touring, including repeat appearances at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. In 1931 he transferred allegiance to Cincinnati, accepting the chief conductor's post of that city's Symphony, an association lasting until 1946. Very much a part of the American musical heartland, Goossens had much to be proud of during those years. He made a number of well- received recordings, continued to compose and became an American citizen. What he did not do was make the leap to the powerful East Coast orchestras that monopolized most international attention. Nor, while introducing much English music to the American public, did he make the essential contacts in his native country that might have led to directorship of a major London orchestra. Whether because of lack of that final bit of ambition or health problems or plain bad luck, Goossens failed to take his rightful place in the pantheon of reigning masters of the baton, instead seeing Barbirolli gain the plum of the New York Philharmonic and then fame as director of the Hallé Orchestra after a dramatic hazardous crossing back to wartime England.

Instead, Goossens departed the New World for one very different, in 1947 accepting the dual roles of director of the New South Wales Conservatorium and conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (then the ABC--Australian Broadcasting Corporation--Orchestra). As in all previous positions, he instituted marked improvements in executional proficiency and expressive ability, a legacy the Sydney Symphony is still proud of today. He persuaded EMI to bring their recording team half-way around the world for a series of 78rpm recordings--only to see his efforts overtaken by new technology in the form of the LP. Then all his acheivements came crashing down. In 1956 he was detained by Australian Customs officials, who discovered a number of pieces of what was then considered pornography in his luggage, with the end result of his sundering all ties with Australia. Sir Eugène Goossens returned to England, where he had been knighted in 1955, and ended his life as a guest conductor, endowing us with a valedictory series of recordings that are the heart of his current legacy on compact disc. He died in London, very much missed but never having achieved the career he seemed destined for in the 1920's.

Eugène Goossens III On Compact Disc

Goossens enjoyed a long and varied career on record but slipped from public attention within a decade of his death. While his 1993 centenary passed with little note being taken, within the last two years his reputation has been enhanced by reissue on compact disc of a number of his later recordings. His 78rpm and mono tape efforts would be found equally attractive, but have not been deemed as worthy, except when Goossens accompanied a famous soloist--which he did with some regularity. Thus we currently must be content with an incomplete phonographic portrait, albeit a compelling one--and one well worth investigating.
What follows is abstracted from a complete discography of the conductor's recordings that appeared in Vol. 26 No. 2 (Number 67) of Le Grand Baton, the journal of the Sir Thomas Beecham Society, compiled by (among others) Robert Matthew-Walker and Brendan Wehrung; the list was further updated in February 1997. Some of the discs below have been deleted, but are retained here for those who might wish to know what has been (until recently) available. (The number of a disc believed to be deleted is followed by an asterisk.) A list of record companies and abbreviations used in this discography is found at the bottom of the page.

ANTHEIL: Symphony No. 4 
          London Symphony Orch.                       BAY BCD-1016*
          (rec. Jan 1959)                             EVR EVC 9039

ANTILL: Corrobee - Ballet Suite
          London Symphony Orch.                       EVR EVC 9007
          (rec. Aug 1958)                           

J.S. BACH: Concerto for two violins and orchestra, BWV 1048
          David and Igor Oistrakh (violins);          DGG 419 855-2*
          Royal Philharmonic Orch.                    DGG 410 994 4GS*
          (rec. 1961)                                  DG 447 427-2

BEETHOVEN: Romances for violin and orchestra, No. 1 in G 
 and No. 2 in F, Op. 40 and 50
          David Oistrakh (violin);                    DGG 427 197-2*
          Royal Philharmonic Orch.                     DG 447 427-2
          (rec. 1961)                     

BERLIOZ: Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
          London Symphony Orch.                       EVR EVC 9017
          (rec. 1960)                                 MAS MK 1841

BIZET: Carmen, Act. I, La Fleur que tu m'avais jetèe 
(Flower song)
          Beniamino Gigli (ten.);                     EMI CDH 61051-2
          (rec. 1931)

BIZET: The Pearl Fishers, Act I, Je crois entendre encore  
 [sung in Italian]
          Beniamino Gigli (ten.),                      MC CDM 01 417
          (rec. 4 July 1931)

BRUCH: Violin Concerto No. 1 in g, Op. 26
          Fritz Kreisler (violin);                    BID LAB 009/10 
          Orchestra                                   ENT QT 99308
          (rec. 1. 29/30 Jan 1924; 2. 2 Jan 1924)     GRM GRM 78579

GINASTERA: Estancia, Ballet suite, Op. 8a; 
 Panambi, Ballet suite, Op. 1a
          London Symphony Orch.                       EVR EVC 9007 
          (rec. Aug 1958)                           

GLINKA: A Life for the Tsar, Act IV: Now I am alone 
          Feodor Chaliapin (bass)                     PER GEMM 9920
          (rec. 14 July 1924)                       

GLINKA: The Midnight Review
          Feodor Chaliapin (bass);                    PER GEMM 9920
          Orchestra                                   TCC 150092*
          (rec. 20 May 1926)                           MM MMA 30909 

GOUNOD: Faust, selections from the opera 
          Feodor Chaliapin (bass);                    EKL EKR 50
          Covent Garden Orch                           NI NI 7823/24
          (rec. live, 22 June 1928)

GOUNOD: Faust, Act III, Salut! Demeure chaste et pure 
 (Flower song) [sung in Italian]
          Beniamino Gigli (ten.)                      EMI CDH 61051-2
          Orchestra (rec. 4 July 1931)                         

HANDEL: Samson, Return O God of Hosts
          Edna Thornton (cont.);                       GS GSH 21*
          Symphony Orch. (rec. 14 Sept 1923)

HANDEL: Saul, O Lord Whose Mercies Numberless
          Edna Thornton (contr.);                      GS GSH 21*
          Symphony Orch.
          (rec. 14 Sept 1923)

HINDEMITH: Violin Concerto (1939)
          Joseph Fuchs (violin),                      EVR EVC 9009
          London Symphony Orch.                                
          (rec. May/June 1959)                                 

MENDELSSOHN: St. Paul, Op. 36: But the Lord is Mindful of His Own
          Edna Thornton (contr.);                      GS GSH 21*
          Symphony Orch.
          (rec. 4 July 1923)

MUSSORGSKY: Boris Godounov, Act I Prologue, I am oppressed 
 (Coronation scene)
          Feodor Chaliapin (bass);, Opera Russe Orch. EMI CDH 61009-2
          (rec. 27 May 1926)                          PER GEMM 9920

MUSSORGSKY: Boris Godounov, Act II: Boris' monologue
          Feodor Chaliapin (bass)                     MEL M10 45415 004*
          Orchestra                                    NI NI 7823/24
          (rec. 23 June 1923)

MUSSORGSKY: Boris Godounov, Act IV, Farewell, my son 
 and Death of Boris
          Feodor Chaliapin (bass);                    TCC 150092*
          Orchestra                                    MM MMA 30909
          (rec. 21, 27 May 1926)

MUSSORGSKY: Song of the flea
          Feodor Chaliapin (bass);                    TCC 150092*
          Orchestra                                   PER GEMM 9920
          (rec. 20 May 1926)                          PER GEMM 9314

PAGANINI: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D, Op. 6
          Michael Rabin (violin);                     EMI CMS 7 64123 2
          Philharmonia Orch.                        
          (rec. 14 May 1960)                        

PROKOFIEV: Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67
          Jose Ferrer (nar.);                         MCA MCAD 99820*
          Vienna State Opera Orch. 
          (rec. 1959)

PUCCINI: La Boheme, Act I: Che gelida manina
          Beniamino Gigli (ten.);                     EMI CDH 7 61051 2
          Orchestra                                    MM CDM 01 417
          (rec. 4 July 1931)                          NIM NI 7801

RACHMANINOV: Symphonic Dances, Op. 45
          London Symphony Orch.                       EVR EVC 9002
          (rec. Aug 1958)                             LSR 14-128

RESPIGHI: Roman Festivals
          London Symphony Orch.                       EVR EVC 9018
          (rec. 1960)

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Scheherazade, Op. 35
          London Symphony Orch.                       HLM DTD 10031*
          (rec. 1959)

ROSSINI: The Barber of Seville: Act I, La Calunnia è 
un venticello
          Feodor Chaliapin (bass);                    PER GEMM 9314
          Orchestra                                   BBC CD 715
          (rec. 20 May 1926)                          TCC 150102*
                                                      TCC 150092*
                                                      EPM 150102

SAINT-SAENS: Havanaise for violin and orchestra in E, Op. 83; 
 Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28
 Yehudi Menuhin (violin);                             EMI CDM 6911
          Philharmonia Orchestra                      CFP MOM 118*
          (rec. 14 Sept 1959)                       

SCHUBERT: Schwanengesang, D. 957: #13, Der Doppelgängler: 
 Der Tod und das Mädchen, D 531
          Feodor Chaliapin (bass),                    TCC 150092*
          (rec. 30 June 1928)

SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in a, Op. 54   
          Bela Siki (piano);                          PRT PVCD 8371*
          Pro Arte Orchestra 
          (rec. 1958)

SCHUMANN: Romances and Ballads II, Op. 49 #1, Die bieden Grenadiere
          Feodor Chaliapin (bass);                    TCC 150092*
          (rec. 20 May 1926)
STRAVINSKY: Petrouchka (1911 version)
          London Symphony Orch.                        TR SMBCD 1001*
          (rec. 1959)                                 PHL 462 3003-2*
                                                      EVR EVC 9042

STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring
          London Symphony Orch.                       EVR EVC 9002
          (rec. May/June 1959)                        MAS MK 1800

STRAVINSKY: Symphony in Three Movements
          London Symphony Orch.                       PHL 422 303-2*
          (rec. Aug 1958)                             EVR EVC 9042

TCHAIKOVSKY: Manfred (Symphony), Op. 58
          London Symphony Orch.                       EVR 9025
          (rec. 1959)          

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 2 in c, Op. 17 "Little Russian"
          Cincinnati Symphony Orch.                   BEU 1PD11
          (rec. 20 Feb 1941)

TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in d, Op. 35
          Ida Haendel (violin);
          Royal Philharmonic Orch.                    TST SBT 1038
          (rec. 22, 24, 26 Oct 1956)

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Symphony No. 2 "A London Symphony" (1920 version)
          Cincinnati Symphony Orch.                   BID WHL 016
          (rec. 19, 20 Feb 1941)

VILLA-LOBOS: Bachianas brasilieras No. 2 -
 The Little Train of the Caipira
          London Symphony Orch.                       EVR EVC 9007
          (rec. 1959)

WALTON: Violin Concerto
          Jascha Heifetz (violin);                    BID WHL 016
          Cincinnati Symphony Orch.                   RCA GS 617365
          (rec. 18 Feb 1941)                          PER GEMM 9167

WIENIAWASKI: Violin Concerto No. 2 in d, Op. 22
          Michael Rabin (violin);                     EMI CMS 7 64123 2
          Philharmonia Orch.
          (rec. 15 May 1960)


BAY Bay Cities (US)                 LSR LaserLight (US)  
BBC British Broadcasting Corp. (UK) MAS Masterpiece
BEU Beulah (UK)                     MCA MCA Royal Blue Line  
BID Biddulph (UK)                    MC Memoria Classics
 CC Collector's Club (UK)           MM Musica Memoria
 DG DG Originals (GER)               NI Nimbus Records (UK)
DGG Deutsche Gramophon (GER)        PER Pearl (UK)
EKL Eklipse (GER)                   PHL  Philips (Polygram, UK)
ENT Enterprise                      PRT Precision Records and Tapes (UK)
EPM                                 RCA RCA Victor (US, UK)
EVR Everest Records (US)            TCC The Classical Collector 
GRM Grammophono 2000 (IT)           THN Thorofon (GER)
 GS Golden Sound                     TR Top Rank (UK)
KCH Koch International (US)         TST Testament (UK)
LEN Leonarda (US)

For those interested in learning more about the life of Sir Eugène Goossens III, copies of Le Grand Baton Number 67 are available for purchase. Robert Matthew-Walker has also recently published The Art of Sir Eugène Goossens - Conductor and Composer which includes a biography, critical discography (including matrix numbers) and a complete list of Goossens's many compositions.

As well, Mr. Matthew-Walker is the editor of Cincinnati Interludes - A Conductor and his Audience containing 20 essays by the conductor on various topics, written for the 50th season of his Cincinnati Symphony. Goossens's own autobiography, Overtures and Beginners is no longer in print, but worth the trouble to interloan, if your library offers that service. Another book of interest is The Goossens: A Musical Century by Carole Rosen, which places the conductor/composer in the context of one of England's most musical families.

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