Eugene Goossens: Orchestral Works, volume 2 Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chandos ★★★★✩
SINCE taking the reins of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra earlier this year, Andrew Davis has been busy. In particular, he seems to have taken on several projects left incomplete by the untimely death of Richard Hickox in November 2008. Two of these have become recent releases on Chandos. In 1996 Chandos launched its Grainger Edition, intending to record the entire Grainger catalogue. Fifteen years later, Chandos released a 19-CD box set, 24 hours of music, to commemorate the halfcentury since Grainger’s death in 1961. Depleted of funds and perhaps energy, the Chandos project faltered, with significant gaps still to fill. In late August last year, Davis led the MSO in a mostly Grainger concert in the newly refurbished Hamer Hall. Several of those works were rarities for chorus and orchestra and, to these ears, sounded decidedly thin. Now, Chandos has released a new recording containing these and others recorded about the same time in Hamer Hall, all under the watchful ear of Barry Peter Ould, the most ardent Graingerite on the planet. These new recordings have a vitality, energy and fun missing in the other performances. Where Hickox’s Grainger struts the opera stage and intones glorious melodies, Davis’s strides along with gusto, accompanied by military bands and cheering bystanders. The MSO and its wonderful chorus produce a splendid noise, highlighted by Grainger’s percussion instruments from the Grainger Museum. Grainger’s disciples will chuckle at the military barracks accents in Danny Deever, sing along in wordless syllables in the gargantuan Marching Song of Democracy and may even shed a tear in the concluding Thanksgiving Song, one of the seven first recordings on this generous CD of 10 pieces. Davis is equally adept in drawing out the Gallic finery in Chandos’s second volume of orchestral music of Eugene Goossens. All 23 tracks are short, bespeaking the schedule of the busy cosmopolitan conductor-composer. But each reveals orchestration on intimate terms with Ravel-Stravinsky, and later Schoenberg-Walton. Davis and his MSO players relish every carefully crafted moment. The solo winds and harps, in particular, shine in recordings that are clean and clear, piquant and charming. How sad that Goossens and Bernard Heinze failed to persuade Grainger to take up the directorship of the Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide in 1948; almost as sad as it is to see a British company having to take up Australia’s musical heritage. Still, we should be grateful to Chandos that these recordings now grace our collections, and to Davis and the MSO for such sterling performances. They can only raise the currency of these two composers on the national and international markets.