Eugène Aynsley Goossens

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Sir Eugène Aynsley Goossens (born May 26, 1893 in London , † June 13, 1962 in Hillingdon near London) was an English conductor and composer .


Goossens came from a family of musicians of Belgian origin and was the son of the conductor and violinist Eugène Goossens . From 1903 he studied music in Bruges, then in Liverpool and from 1907 in London at the Royal College of Music , among others with Charles Villiers Stanford and Charles Wood . In 1912 Goossens conducted his own op. 1, Variations on a Chinese Theme , at the Royal College. From 1911 to 1915 he was violinist in the Queen's Hall Orchestra and was then assistant director there, supported by Thomas Beecham . In 1921 he conducted the British premiere of Le Sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky , followed him Diaghilev as a conductor for the Ballets Russes committed.

Between 1923 and 1931 he worked in the USA as conductor of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra , then from 1931 to 1946 as conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, succeeding Fritz Reiner . In 1942 Goossens encouraged various composers to compose patriotic fanfares on the occasion of the American entry into World War II . Among the resulting contributions was the Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland , which has remained very popular to this day . From 1947 to 1956 he worked in Australia, where he led the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and became director of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music . In 1955 Goossens, meanwhile one of the leading figures in Australian cultural life, was raised to the nobility as a Knight Bachelor .

In March 1956, a scandal forced Goossens to withdraw from all positions. This was preceded by a long-term secret relationship with Rosaleen Norton, who lived as the so-called "Witch of Kings Cross" in the red light district of Sydney and was well known there, among other things for practicing erotic-occult rites. After returning from a trip to Europe, the Australian airport police, alerted by informants, searched Goossens' luggage and found books and pictures with pornographic content along with other items that were prohibited from being imported into Australia under the legal situation at the time. The affair with Norton went public, which damaged his reputation so much that he left Australia and returned to England. There he conducted a. a. some stereo recordings for the record company Everest Records . He gave his last concert in 1962 with the London Symphony Orchestra .

Goossens wrote an autobiography called Overture and Beginners: A Musical Autobiography .

Compositional work

The works by Goossens include two symphonies (1940, 1946), two string quartets, two violin sonatas, a concertino for octet (also in a version for string orchestra) and other chamber music. He also wrote two operas ("Don Juan de Mañara" was broadcast on the BBC in April 1959 under Goossens own direction), the oratorio The Apocalypse and an oboe concerto written for his brother Léon Goossens .

His music was based on French impressionism , but also took up more modern elements and shows a preference for grotesque and exotic effects. It has only been rediscovered around the mid-1990s, also through recordings by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation .


The scandal of 1956 later found echo in literature, music and film. It became the basis of Inez Baranay's novella Pagan (1990) , inspired the play The Devil is a Woman by Louis Nowra and the opera Eugene & Roie by the composer Drew Crawford . He is also featured in Geoffrey Burton's film The Fall of the House .


  • Friedrich Blume (Ed.): Music in the past and present . Bärenreiter, Kassel 1949–1986.
  • Sir Eugène Goossens: Overture and Beginners. A Musical Autobiography. Greenwood Press, Westport Conn 1951, 1972 (repr.). ISBN 0-8371-5597-5
  • Inez Baranay: Pagan. Angus & Robertson, North Ryde NSW 1990. ISBN 0-207-16681-1
  • Carole Rosen: The Goossens. A Musical Century. Andre Deutsch, London 1994. ISBN 0-233-98833-5
  • Sir Eugène Goossens, Robert Matthew-Walker: Cincinnati Interludes. A Conductor and His Audience. DGR Books, St Austell 1995. ISBN 1-898343-05-5
  • Ava Hubble: The Strange Case of Eugene Goossens and Other Tales from The Opera House. Collins, Sydney 1988. ISBN 0-7322-2449-7

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