Goossens: The Apocalypse (CD)

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Lauris Elms, Gregory Yurisich, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Myer Fredman

Eugene Goossens' most ambitious and epic work, The Apocalypse, has had few performances since its premiere in Sydney Town Hall in 1954. This recording was made to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, in 1982. It is a grand work, full of colours and drama, and in the words of conductor Myer Fredman, “the orchestration is brilliant”.

Featuring performances by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Sydney Philharmonia Choir, this recording is a fascinating and historical part of Australia's classical music history. The soloists, Lauris Elms (contralto), Gregory Yurisich (baritone), Grant Dickson (bass), Raymond McDonald (tenor), Ronald Dowd (tenor), Narelle Tapping (mezzo-soprano) are all incredible singers from Australia's past. Lauris Elms, in particular, is a highly celebrated artist with very few commercial recordings available; it's wonderful to at last be able to have access to this monumental recording.

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Goossens: The Apocalypse, Op. 64, G. 77

Lauris Elms (contralto), Gregory Yurisich (baritone), Grant Dickson (bass), Raymond McDonald (tenor), Ronald Dowd (tenor), Narelle Tapping (mezzo-soprano)

Sydney Philharmonia Choir, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Myer Fredman

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Now this is interesting, as they say. After the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s ground-breaking recordings of Goossens’ smaller works on Chandos it is pleasing to finally engage with a major work of his.

Sir Eugene Goossens was, in the forties and fifties, a major figure in music around Sydney, being chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony, director of the Sydney Conservatorium, and advocate for Bennelong Point as the site for the Opera House. Here in Australia he is also remembered for the sadder tale of his expulsion in disgrace. Suffice to say that it revolved around his interest in the occult, an interest that his oratorio The Apocalypse would seem to reflect.

It is a huge work, nearly eighty minutes, and although it belongs firmly in the British choral tradition—sitting stylistically somewhere between Belshazzar’s Feast and Salomé—it is also a fascinating time-capsule of the kind of music-making that went on in Sydney in the sixties. You will gather that extravagance rather than piety is on the menu.

Lyrita are a label dedicated to British music of the 20th century, and it is characteristic of their approach to have unearthed the recording of this neglected work. The energetic performance, recorded live in Sydney in 1984, features local soloists including the great Lauris Elms, with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Myer Fredman.

- The Classical Music Collector, Chris Dench