Eugene Goossens (1893-1962) : Represented Artist
26th May, 1893 - 13th June, 1962
Born in London, Eugene Goossens studied first at the Bruges Conservatoire, then at the Liverpool College of Music between 1904 and 1906. He studied at the Royal College of Music with Sir Charles Stanford between 1907 and 1912. After a brief period as a violinist with the Queen's Hall Orchestra, Goossens turned to conducting. Having conducted both orchestral music and opera while assistant to Sir Thomas Beecham, he went on to conduct the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Minneapolis Orchestra, and the St Louis Orchestra among others. He was conductor with the Cincinatti Symphony Orchestra between 1931 and 1946.
In 1947 Goossens accepted the positions of Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Director of the NSW Conservatorium of Music. These appointments followed on his 1946 visit to Australia as a guest conductor for the ABC. During the period of his dual appointment (which was originally intended to last for only three years, but which was not to end until 1956) Goossens worked hard to improve standards both in the orchestra and at the Conservatorium. He encouraged the performance of contemporary music and introduced Sydney audiences to works such as John Antill's Corroboree. He also worked for the promotion of Australian music both in Australia and overseas, and performed the work of young composers such as Felix Werder and Malcolm Williamson. At the Conservatorium he staged operas such as Pelléas et Mélisande, Boris Godunov and his own Judith, the performance of which was the occasion of Joan Sutherland's debut. He was also a leader in the campaign for the construction of the Sydney Opera House, and chose the site at Bennelong Point where it now stands. Having been made a Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur previously, Goossens was knighted in 1955.
A scandal involving the importation of banned materials on his return from a tour in 1956, however, destroyed his career in Australia. He was forced to resign from the directorship of the Conservatorium, and then from his position with the SSO. He left Australia for Britain soon afterwards. In later years it has been suggested that this scandal may have been engineered in some way.
He continued to conduct in Europe, South America and elsewhere, but his health deteriorated and he died in Hillingdon Hospital, in Middlesex, in 1962.
Goossens rarely performed his own works, but composed about seventy pieces, including two operas, Judith and Don Juan de Manara, an oratorio, concerti, symphonic works, pieces for piano, chamber ensembles, and voice. Many compositions were left unfinished at the time of his death, including a ballet and a third opera.