Alexander Goehr (1932, British)

Among the works of Alexander Goehr (son of conductor Walter Goehr) I have in my collection, here are those that I’ve reviewed:

The Violin Concerto op. 13 from 1961-62, on an EMI “British Composers” CD, 5 86189 2, where it is paired with works by Scottish composer Iain Hamilton. The Concerto is a very interesting composition, not easy listening but highly rewarding, sounding somewhat like “the Second Violin Concerto Schoenberg never wrote”.

The Romanza for Cello and Orchestra op. 24 performed live in 1968 by Jacqueline du Pré and the New Philharmonia Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim, and Symphony in One Movement, in the premiere performance by the New Philharmonia Orchestra now conducted by Edward Downes, on Intaglio INCD 7671 (1993). Despite a constant static noise in the Romanza, these are invaluable testimonies of two difficult but rewarding works. The Symphony develops to outbursts of devastating power, for which I see only Varèse’s Amériques as a forerunner.

Piano Concerto op. 33 (Peter Serkin, London Sinfonietta, Oliver Knussen), Symphony in One Movement op. 29 (BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Richard Bernas) on NMC D023 (1995). The Symphony – even its sonics – is no match to Downes live performance. For the 1972 and very “post-schoenbergian” Piano Concerto, I’ll use again a formula that I seem to be using a lot to encapsulate the music of Goehr: “difficult but rewarding”. See the reviews for the details.

The other CDs in my collection, desperately waiting for listening and reviewing time, include:

Little Symphony op. 15 (London Symphony Orchestra, Norman del Mar) String Quartet No. 2 op. 23 (Allegri Quartet), Piano Trio op. 20 (Orion Trio) on Lyrita SRCD 264 (2008), barcode 50209260264222

Romanza op. 24 (Moray Welsh, cello) and Metamorphosis/Dance op. 36 by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under David Atherton (recorded June 1981) on Unicorn UKCD 2039 (1990), barcode 053068203920

Sing Ariel op. 51 (Eileen Hulse, Lucy Shelton, Sarah Leonard, Instrumental Ensemble, cond. Oliver Knussen), The Mouse Metamorphosed into a Maid op. 54 (Lucy Shelton) on Unicorn DKP(CD)9129 (1992) 053068912921

The Death of Moses op. 53 by Michael Chance, Stephen Richardson, Sarah Leonard, and more soloists, Sawston Village College Chamber Choir, Cambridge University Musical Society Chorus and Instrumental Ensemble, conducted by Stephen Cleobury on Unicorn DKP(CD)9146 (1993) 053068914628

Arianna, “lost opera by Monteverdi composed again by Alexander Goehr”, by the Arianna Ensemble under William Lacey, 2 CDs NMC D054, barcode (1998) 5023363005425 (see entry on


AND: I also have, in my collection, Walter Goehr’s Radio Opera Malpopita by Thorsten Henniig, Lilia Milek, Axel Herrio, Klaus Webener etc, Kammerchor und Orchestra Malpopita, Kin Wang, on Capriccio 60 124 (2005) 4006408601241

Comments are welcome