Goehr like Birtwistle studied with Richard Hall in Manchester. He had been born in Berlin. His father was the conductor Walter Goehr. In 1955 he also took lessons from Messiaen and Yvonne Loriod in Paris. His music found ready advocacy in the BBC during the 1960s and 1970s. However my impression is that numbers of performances began to fade after that.
His music has more of a sense of roundedness and undulant contouring than Birtwistle. Thus his four movement Little Symphony proceeds with a more articulated and curvaceous progress than Birtwistle. The music is dissonant but not to extremes and there is certainly a grip on tonality and a determined resolve. In the third movement of the Symphony one can pick up echoes ofRead more Nielsen’s Sixth Symphony. The Little Symphony was written in memory of the composer’s father. It was premiered in York Minster in July 1963 by the same forces as are used for this recording.
Moving forward five years we come to the more extreme String Quartet No. 2 which was first performed, again by the same forces as are used here, in July 1967. It is in three movements of dramatic music-making. Dissonance is alive and kicking here but the vibrant recording compensates with an intensely engaging sound-image with depth and breadth sufficient to unwaveringly engage the mind and ears. The two movement Piano Trio has keyboard writing that evinces Goehr’s debt to Messiaen and Loriod. It is also amongst the most human and affecting of dissonant works. The premiere was given by Yehudi Menuhin, Hephzibah Menuhin and Maurice Gendron at the Bath Festival in June 1966.
The satisfying notes are by Lyrita regular Paul Conway.
Alexander Goehr’s music is here presented with high production values and commendable cultural commitment and inspiration.