This album marks the beginning of the partnership between the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and its recently appointed Chief Conductor, Sir Andrew Davis, who already boasts an impressive discography on Chandos.
In the pieces performed here, we find Goossens emerging at the end of World War I as a brilliant and innovative orchestrator, a modernist with a technique derived from Debussy, Ravel, and early Stravinsky. As Director of the New South Wales Conservatorium in Sydney and Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, he was phenomenally successful, his achievements earning him international fame.
Four Conceits, Kaleidoscope, and Two Nature Poems all began life as works for solo piano, written during or just after World War I. All were later adapted for orchestral forces, and in steep contrast to the excessive length and opulence of much wartime music, these works (Kaleidoscope and Four Conceits in particular) are conspicuously brief. In fact, only one of the four Conceits exceeds two minutes.
The short tone poem Tam o’Shanter and the four-act opera Don Juan de Mañara were both inspired by literary works. The former illustrates the well-known poem of the same name by Robert Burns, depicting the drunken return from Ayr of Tam on this horse, the uncertain gait of which is heard in the music from the outset. The libretto for Goossens’s opera had been written by Arnold Bennett after a play by Alexandre Dumas, père.
Also closely associated with the arts, Three Greek Dances was written for Margaret Morris whose flowing style of dancing, inspired by Isadora Duncan, we today associate with the 1920s. The piece, in its final form, was first performed in London by Morris and her dancers at the Faculty of Arts, Piccadilly in January 1931.
At the suggestion of their friend the critic Edwin Evans, four composers – John Ireland, Frank Bridge, Arnold Bax, and Eugene Goossens – jointly produced a miniature set of variations on the French folksong ‘Cadet Rousselle’, for soprano and piano. Goossens later arranged the set for orchestra without voice, the version performed here.