GOOSSENS: Phantasy Concerto, Op. 60. Symphony No. 1, Op. 58.
VIVALDI: The Four Seasons. GEMINIANI: Concerto Grosso No. 4
in F. Concerto Grosso No. 12 in D minor "La Foillia."
British conductor Eugene Goossens (1893-1962) perhaps is best known to collectors for his series of recordings made for the Everest label, a few of which were reissued about a decade ago by Vanguard in their original multi-channel format—and, unfortunately, no longer available. Let us hope all of these will soon be made available in quality transfers. Goossens achieved considerable recognition during his lifetime for his compositions which included two operas, much chamber music and varied orchestral works. He also was recognized as a conductor; Beecham chose him to conduct for a season of his Beecham Opera Company. Goossens was music director of the Rochester Philharmonic from 1923-1931, and the Cincinnati Symphony from 1931-1946, after which he conducted extensively in Australia. Although married three times, his affair with Rosaleen Norton, who was considered to be a witch, resulted in his public disgrace and the end of his career; details are available on the internet. Goossens' solid musicianship remained, and it was during his final years that he made those superb Everest recordings. Chandos now offers collectors the opportunity to hear two major works of his, the Phantasy Concerto composed for José Iturbi who gave the premiere in Cincinnati in 1944. The Spanish pianist had requested a new concerto "on a smaller scale," but what he got was a 26-minute four-movement "concerto" that had three performances during its initial years but apparently none since: this is the premiere recording. Howard Shelley does what can be done for this music, but there is good reason why it has been neglected, in spite of some effective bell-like effects. Symphony No. 1, composed from 1938-1940, is dedicated "To my Colleagues of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra," and much greater in scope. There are four movements and total playing time is almost 40 minutes. There is much colorful orchestration, but Goossens was a far better conductor than a composer. This recording, made in April 2008, was the last made by Richard Hickox, who does what can be done with this music.
Telarc has another winner in their release of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. Young violinist Christina Day Martinson is the imaginative soloist and her ornamentation in the slow movements are highly effective. The Boston Baroque is first-class, as always, and Telarc's rich, natural sound gives uncommon body to the sound of baroque instruments. The two Geminani concerti are welcome. Without question this is among the very finest of the 200+ recordings of Vivaldi's masterpiece.
I Musici, a 12-member string ensemble originating in Rome, has played a major part on the international music scene since. Arturo Toscanini praised them, and their recordings have been best-sellers. Their first recording (mono) of The Four Seasons was made in 1955 with Felix Ayo as guest artist and it is reported more than ten million copies were sold world-wide. They made five more stereo recordings in following years: 1959 again with Ayo, in 1969 with Roberto Michelucci, in 1982 with Pina Carmirelli, in 1990 with Federico Agostini, and 1995 with Mariana Sirbu; many of these are still available. Now the group is featured on this Fonè SACD in a varied program including two works they have recorded before: Rota's Concerto for Strings and the Respighi suite. New to their catalog we have a six-movement suite by Marco Enrico Bossi (1861-1925) and Puccini's Crisantemi. Performances are what one would expect from a world-class ensemble, but they have been recorded in a rather dry acoustic that does not enhance their sound. ArkivMusic has resurrected many of I Musici's older recordings that offer a more natural sound.
R.E.B. (April 2009)