Goosens Piano Works: Kaleidoscope Op 18; Four Conceits Op 20; Ships – three preludes for piano, Op 42; Two Studies Op 38; Homage to Paderewski; Homage a Debussy, Op 28; Two Pieces Op 56; Capriccio; Concert Study Op 10; Nature Poems, Op 25; Andante from Brandenburg Concerto No2; Rythmic Dance Op 30; Forlane and toccata; East of Suez - Suite for Piano Op 33; L'Ecole en Crinoline - Ballet Op 29.
Antony Gray (piano). 
ABC Classics 476 7636.

Michael Jameson

The piano works of Sir Eugene Goossens(1893-1962) form an important sub-grouping within his output. Yet paradoxically, this facet of his creative output, including many splendid and accessible miniatures (some cast in pleasing salonesque vein), has been the most inexplicably marginalised element of Goossens’ oeuvre. It’s especially pleasing, then, to be able to offer unqualified commendation to Antony Gray’s new recital disc.

Among the more substantial works here, only the suite Kaleidoscope, Op 18 (composed in 1917-18) already figures in the catalogues played by Raphael Terroni on a British Music Society release, BMS 401. Generally serviceable, Terroni’s version seems rather four-square given Antony Gray’spowerfully idiomatic flair for the fantastical and the pictorialist in these 12miniatures (plainly modelled on the childlike imagery of Schumann’s Kinderszenen), and in the companion pieces Four Conceits, Op 20.

Goossens’ delight in ships, planes and particularly trains was well known. The former found musical expression in the three Ship preludes Op 42 (1924). Antony Gray has the true measure of this triptych, perhaps a pianistic foil to John Masefield’s famous lines in the poem Cargoes.

Turning to more eclectic and challenging works here, in particular the fiendishly challenging Nature Poems of 1919 (their dramaturgy recalls the final act of Ravel’s ballet Daphnis and Chloe), Gray’s technical assurance and expressivity are hugely impressive, and his gravely empathetic manner in the Homage to Paderewski, Goossens’ valediction for the Polish virtuoso surely would not be out of place in Chopin.

Both are estimable, thorough-going accounts, imbued with natural spontaneity, grace and gravitas, though it would be churlish to overlook Antony Gray'’beguiling way with the slighter offerings here, notably the Two Studies, Op 38, and the Two Pieces Op 56. Incidentally, the first of the Op 38 Studies, '‘Folk Tune'’ found its way onto an EMI recital disc by Richard Rodney Bennett recorded in 1975, though with this excellent ABC issue, most beautifully and atmospherically engineered, Antony Gray'’ diligent and captivating pianism surpasses all competition, and one can only hope that recordings of this calibre will occasion a revival of interest in Goossens’ piano music. Recommended.


The Sydney Morning Herald

Eugene Goossens did much to develop musical knowledge in Sydney, introducing works by Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky. Sydney failed to return the favour, largely forgetting his music.
ABC Classics is making amends, with last year's release of a three-CD set of his orchestral works (including his two symphonies) and now this engaging recording by Antony Gray.
Unlike the orchestral music, these works are on an intimate scale, savouring childhood memories. The most substantial are his Nature Poems (1919), evocative of Debussy and Ravel.
Gray displays lively intelligence and in works such as the 12-piece set, Kaleidoscope, Op. 18, or the genial Four Conceits, Op. 20, he warms the music's gentle humour without arch coyness. Included is music for Somerset Maugham's play East of Suez and an unperformed ballet L'Ecole en Crinoline. A heavy debt, handsomely repaid.


Malcolm Williamson: Complete music for solo piano
Performed by Antony Gray
ABC Classics

International Record Review
October 2004

Reviewed by Robert Matthew Walker

When Malcolm Williamson, Master of the Queen's Music, died last year at the age of 71 his reputation had reached its lowest ebb. For several years prior to his death, Williamson's music was rarely heard - his seventieth birthday was ignored by the BBC Proms on 2001 - and whenever his name was mentioned it usually met either with incomprehension from younger music lovers, who barely had the opportunity of hearing his music, or with general disdain by those older folk who followed the usual media hostility which tended to attach to Wiliamson the man, and which therefore, illogically, attached to the quality of his music. Williamson lived life to the full, and sometimes beyond it; but his physical health could not always withstand the extreme pressure which he would place upon it. Yet those who remember with affection the man - who could be infuriating and adorable at the same time - and be neither with affectation - and who, for our present purposes, also remember his music, cannot but be moved at the spectacle of an incredibly gifted musician (a magnificent pianist and organist, as well as composer) who ended his days, incapacitated by a series of strokes, virtually forgotten by the musical establishment of which, as MQM, he was (and would have been, in different circumstances) the head.

Forgotten works

When we come to the enormous body of music which Williamson left (many of the later works, including symphonies and a fourth piano concerto, await performance), we are confronted by an artist of astonishing range and accomplishment. His opera Our Man in Havana remains without question the most brilliant first opera (of 11) by (for the sake of it, let's call this Australian-born) a British composer since Peter Grimes; the premiere was a sensation, and the press were as one in their praise; the large scale opera The Violins of St. Jacques equally cries out for revival. His church music ranged from the overwhelming Mass of Christ the King, premiered at Westminster Cathedral, to the smallest unison versicles and responses; his orchestral music, concertos, choral and vocal music, chamber music and so on - all exhibit his natural fecundity, the breadth of his accomplishment and the quality of his invention as a genuine master of music - whether these works are for the use of queens or not.
It is thanks to Antony Gray and the Australian Broadcasting Commission that this set of records contains Malcolm Williamson's complete music for solo piano. And here we encounter another - perhaps the major - problem with Williamson's music. It is uncompromising, yet barely speaks in the same language consistently. The music ranges from the most completely serial pieces to the most simple diatonic tonal miniatures; and yet, even when Williamson is being at his most uncompromising or at his simplest, there is a quality that draws the attentive listener back again and again. It is all, as we might expect, magnificently written for the keyboard.

Piano Sonatas Nos 1 - 4

The most important works here are the four Sonatas. The first was written at Britten's invitation for the Aldeburgh Festival, and was premiered there by the composer in 1956. It is an extremely well-written piece, a compact (11 minute) three-movement score that wears its (almost) half century lightly, and which exhibits brief influences of Stravinsky and (in layout) Hindemith. The second sonata of 1957, a memorial piece for Gerald Finzi, is a far tougher proposition; almost twice as long as its predecessor and intensely serious, it embodies melodic-chordal serial techniques with deeper underlying tonal principles. It is the most difficult of the sonatas with which to come to terms; older readers may recall the Pye Golden Guinea LP of No1 played by Peter Cooper, and the Argo issue of No 2, played by Williamson himself; Gray is at his most compelling here, especially in the extraordinarily fiery finale of No 2 - outplaying the composer. The third and fourth sonatas have a convoluted history: No3 dates from 1958 but was not first heard complete in its final form until 1993 (Gray tells the extraordinary story in his excellent notes), and No 4, eventually a two-movement work, was premiered in 1994. Williamson's initial combative temperament is here subsumed into a gentler, perhaps more ameliorative expression, but the virtuosity and finger dexterity required in the Finale of No 3 places it outside the realm of all but the most technically accomplished pianists (a pity, for the music is completely attractive - a set of 'reflections', as it were, on an initial idea). These scores are virtually unknown, but their quality is, surely, self-evident, and I trust that these excellent performances will engender the wide interest in them that the music deserves.

An unpublished masterpiece?

Of the other works, apart from the Travel Diaries, to which we shall return, the most interesting is the set of Variations (1954). This recording is the first performance for half a century; the work was written when Williamson was 23, a pupil of Elizabeth Lutyens, and is quite extraordinary for the time and place where it was written. In some respects, it is almost a fifth sonata (preceding the other four), and I simply cannot understand why the composer just 'put it away' - not withdrawing it. It is unpublished but should be printed immediately. It is a major addition to the repertory and receives a fine performance here.

Other pieces

There are two commemorative pieces in this collection, Ritual of Admiration, is a rather so-so work written for Elizabeth Lutyens's seventieth birthday, a somewhat anonymous homage to his one-time teacher, and Hymna Titu, written in memory of the Yugoslav President, Marshal Tito, whom - it appears - Williamson admired, and which was given its first performance by the composer at the Australian Legation in Belgrade in 1986, an event hardly guaranteed to endear him to Margaret Thatcher's Government of the day. Based on Yugoslav folk-music, it is a fascinatingly well-written study in terms of structural mastery - a branch of the craft in which this composer was usually considered deficient. We also have here the five books of teaching music, the Travel Diaries of 1960 - 61, and later sets, that The Bridge Van Gogh Painted and the French Camargue and Haifa Watercolours. These amount to a total of 69 miniatures in the seven suites. Although having known and played some of these over the years, I am rendered almost speechless when confronted - as here - by their astonishing technical and musical accomplishment. Why they are not in the syllabuses for every beginner of the piano, of every music college in the world, I simply do not know. The music is good enough to appear in professional recital programmes, as well as in scholastic examination sets. It is colourful, and the titles would attract even the least musical of young pianists to try them out, together with the Five Preludes, based on Wordsworth's sonnet Composed upon Westminster Bridge. These are more demanding technically, but share a late-Impressionistic impetus, and they reveal yet another facet of this astonishing composer's art. The recordings are excellent, and for Gray, this entire project has been an obvious labour of love which he has dispatched with considerable technical and artistic accomplishment. I cannot recommend this issue too strongly.



MCA Music Forum, Dec 2003


Reviewed by Mark Isaacs

During my high school and University years in the 1970s when I began to mix within the Sydney "new music" scene as a budding composer I recall that the name of Australian composer Malcolm Williamson was invariably invoked with a snigger of derision by most of those whom I looked up to for guidance.
In retrospect this can surely be viewed through the prism of the much vaunted "Tall Poppy Syndrome" welded not only to the then stifling artistic "correctness" imposed by an all-pervasive and stringently ideological interpretation of the idea of "Modernism" but also to general political correctness itself.
It seems to me that Williamson's sins were as follows;
Firstly he was too successful and this success manifested in a highly politically inappropriate way. In 1975 he was appointed to the position of Master of the Queen's Music, the first non-British composer to hold the post. In Australia he was viewed as a kind of traitor in accepting such a prestigious position in another country and given that it was a royal appointment he betrayed in the most spectacular way possible the " anti-establishment" ethos thought proper for artists in the late twentieth century, in particular grating against the basic republicanism that naturally informed such polemical forces within Australia.
Secondly, his music was too eclectic for its time and largely too accessible. Williamson approached composition in a way that is accepted as the norm now but at the time was highly suspect. Musical means were not an end in themselves - he used whatever techniques were appropriate to extract the core of the particular piece he was writing. Some of his music was astringently non-tonal, such as in the sonata no 2
where he used serial techniques. In other works, particularly those intended as teaching works (such as the picturesque "Travel Diaries"), the harmonic language is often tonal and highly accessible. His music also contains within its reach moods and colours firmly rejected in the new concert music of the time: humour, charm, elegance and flippancy for example. This music always has "line" in a way that was not often part of the armoury of the largely University based composers of the period: it can almost always be listened to within the rubric of a conventional music syntax of some kind. Most unforgivably, audiences liked it.
This 3-CD set contains four sonatas, a set of five Preludes, the teaching pieces that consist of the five Travel Diaries (Sydney, Naples, London, Paris and New York) as well as Haifa Watercolours and The Bridge that Van Gogh Painted and the French Camargue, the Variations for Piano, Ritual of Admiration and Hymna Titu.
Pianist Antony Gray has worked directly with Williamson and has written the excellent liner notes and the candid biography containing many first-hand personal insights that appear in the CD booklet. He is in all respects a staunch advocate for Williamson's work
Gray has great cleanliness and heightened surety of touch that serve to make the composer's textures refreshingly transparent - nothing is swallowed or muffled as the music's lines and layers are starkly etched within the listener's ear. His technique is prodigious: crisp and biting where needed while filigree passages are woven with a sense of abandonment to their intricacy. At the same time I felt the music's impact overall would benefit from a wider depth of pianistic colouration. Nonetheless, Gray's playing is honed and extremely robust and articulately advocates the fundamentals of the text. It is clearly also a massive achievement to sustain such an impeccable high level of performance quality as one finds here across nearly three hours of music.
Regarding the actual music of Malcolm Williamson, I cautiously offer up some initial observations. Constraints of time do not allow for deep and repeated immersion in the span of music contained in this 3-CD set, nonetheless first impressions are perhaps worth sharing with the caveat that further listening may reveal hitherto unnoticed layers of meaning. I have been left with the impressions of a composer who demonstrated a prolific facility, impeccable craftsmanship and a brilliantly wide variety of vocabulary and means. However I was not struck with an over-arching vision or a driving need to reveal a deeply personal engagement with the universe, rather more a sense that the composer is toying with his ideas from a distance, that they are in some ways "specimens" that he has found along the way which he astutely and industriously collates in variegated ways for our pleasure (and there is indeed considerable pleasure here).
These qualifications (whether or not ameliorated by further listening) are ultimately related to matters of taste and personal expectation of what music can or should deliver. This release remains highly important and one to be firmly celebrated, coming as it does in the year of the composer's death and at a time when according to the liner notes "there is hardly a note of [Williamson's] music in the CD catalogues". The redoubtable Gray and ABC music should be firmly congratulated for single-handedly providing such a powerful redress to this unfortunate situation and it is very fitting that this has been done in Australia - clearly one of our most important and successful composers has been grossly neglected both here and internationally.

Johannes Brahms: Piano pieces Op 116, 117, 118, 119.
Performed by Antony Gray
ABC Classics 476 6790

Grainger - 3 Pieces; Schumann - Etudes Symphoniques Op 13; Carmichael - Pastorale, Interlude and Toccata; Toovey - Little Music for Malcolm Williamson; Dussek - Sonata in G Op 45 no 2; Hindson - AK47; Poulenc - Intermezzo in D flat.
KNS Classical. KNS A/002

John Carmichael, Solo Flights, the complete piano music.
Bravura Watzes; Spider Song; Sonatine; Bagatelle; Latin American Suite; Damon Suite; Gestorter Traum; Hommages; From the Dark Side.
ABC Classics 476 6191

“It is so great to hear a modern composer who is not afraid of
melody, and technically it is amazing. It gave me great pleasure.”

Richard Bonynge


MusicWeb International
Rob Barnett

John Carmichael was born in Melbourne and studied piano with Raymond Lambert and composition with Dorian Le Gallienne at the University Conservatorium. In Paris he worked with Marcel Ciampi. Contact with Arthur Benjamin led to a period of mentoring with him in London and after that composition studies with Anthony Milner.

Carmichael was a pioneer of music therapy working at the famous Stoke Mandeville and Netherden Mental hospitals. His time as Music Director of the Spanish dance company Eduardo Y Navarra and flamenco left us with the Concierto Folklórico . In 1980 James Galway premiered Carmichael's Phoenix , a flute concerto, at the Sydney Opera House. His Trumpet Concerto and Clarinet Concerto have been recorded by ASV and Dutton respectively. There is also an ABC disc of his chamber music including the Piano Quartet which gives the CD its title: Sea Changes . His most recent work is On the Green , for wind ensemble. This was first aired in London in September 2007. It celebrates “the green spaces of West London where the composer has lived for the last 40 years; it highlights the events which take place in these areas open to all to enjoy - open air music, fun fairs, children's games and care-free summer's days.”.

We now turn to the disc in hand.

When John Carmichael calls a suite of four short pieces Bravura Waltzes he is not joking. They really are bravura . The Nostalgic has a ‘grandissime' manner which recalls Medtner at his most rarely outgoing and his most touching. The Capricious is more feminine, mood-volatile and touching, with cross-currents from the Chopin Ballades. The Demonic rejoices at first in secret smiles rather than explosive coruscation but as it progresses (2:02) there are those landslides of notes we have might expected. Continuing the Russian immersion the Finale blazes its romantic trail with injections of fantasy from Ravel alongside the glories of the Russian keyboard.

Spider Song is more understated: gently accessible and bejewelled with a pearly tapestry to suggest the spider's ceaseless industry.

The Sonatine is in three movements one of which began life as a contribution to Malcolm Williamson 's 70th birthday concert at the Wigmore Hall. There is an On a May Morning tenderness about this work with suggestions of John Ireland. After all Carmichael has spent most of his mature life as a UK resident. The finale is more redolent of Prokofiev and Suggestion Diabolique than Ireland although there may be something of Equinox about it and of his own impressive Bravura Waltzes .

The Bagatelle is pleasing and is his first published competition written in the year that saw the death of his teacher Arthur Benjamin.

The Latin-American Suite is bound to prompt recollections of the much later solo piano music of Lionel Sainsbury . It will be recalled that Carmichael wrote a Concierto Folklorico (piano and orchestra) and recorded it himself for ABC . The first of the three movements is a rumba and yes there are shards of the famous Arthur Benjamin work. Nevertheless this remains fresh and full of lively glinting fire and lights. After a seductive Habanera with deep dark waters comes the galloping Joropo which  is redolent of Milhaud.

The early Damon Suite is unassuming, tonal-lyrical - that's a given with Carmichael - and easy on the ear without being bland. The Finzi-into-Rachmaninov Shadow Waltz is memorable for its grace and emotional range.

The Gestörter Traum is in the manner of Liszt. It was written for Liszt specialist Leslie Howard.

The four Hommages to twentieth century ikonic composers chart sympathetic territory for Gray. The de Falla suggests rather than parodies its object of passion. The Poulenc is a smiling essay which apes the manner but does so irresistibly. The Fauré is placid and aristocratic with some explosions of charging energy recalling the outer movements of the Piano Quartet No. 1. The Ravel again strikes the manner to a tee with the resource drawn on being the Rapsodie espagnole - again the suggestion not the explicit statement. These are works that register as liberation rather than in stifling thrall to the subject composer's music. So richly detailed are they that they struck me that one day Carmichael might be tempted to orchestrate them. They might very well work superbly in that format as they also do for solo piano. The Ravel Hommage is a fantastic triumph of the imagination and adroitly drawn duende .

The four movement suite From the Dark Side has a Secret Ceremony movement which must set us thinking, by title allusion, of Arthur Machen and John Ireland. Then  comes Before Nightfall - a sense of obsession and undertow can be sensed here. The Elegy chimes slowly, recalling graves surrounded by cowled stone-watchers - sad in effect but beautiful in humanity's approximation to eternity. The final section is Dance with the Devil - 'lustful, malicious and threatening', says the composer.

The sound conjured by the always sensitive and challenging Antony Gray is lifelike and commanding. Gray has already given us unique ABC piano solo collections of Goossens and Williamson which complement Ian Munro's fine Arthur Benjamin piano recitals on Tall Poppies: vol. 1 ; vol. 2 . I do hope that Gray will one day record the Phantasy Piano Concertos by Goossens and Frank Hutchens with Benjamin's Concerto Quasi Una Fantasia .

Meantime this is a disc with an identity and a fascinating spell of its own. It would be impossible not to enjoy and to be stimulated by this music and by this playing.


Adelaide Advertiser

'Gray lets the light shine through'

The Firm
Pilgrim Church

Programmes of contemporary music concerts often have nothing in common except the fact that most of the pieces are new or newish. Not this time
The Firm had the good fortune to secure the services of ex-pat pianist Antony Gray. His powerful pianism, fuelled by rare sensitivity and empathy for the vagaries of 20th century compositions, linked the six separate items like separate chapters of one story.
A passionate and extremely well-informed advocate of Malcolm Williamson - who died earlier this year - Gray opened with the first Australian performance of the Sonata no 4 (1964). The piece is marked by strong ideas that quickly imprint themselves on the aural memory.
Four living Australians then had their material treated with the same unfailing respect. Andrew Schultz's cantata Journey to Horseshoe Bend, based on the lives of father Carl and son Theo Strehlow, had its premiere in Sydney this year and he pianised two extracts, Sleepers Awake and Karalananga, expressly for Gray.
Then it was the turn of the locals. Meditations and Essays by Quentin Grant, comprises six short but pithy investigations on the nexus between agitation and resignation, progressing to complete - but still uneasy - calm. Gray's total absorption held us also rapt for several seconds after the final notes had decayed to nothing.
Raymond Chapman Smith's fascination with the seductive power of single notes pervaded his autumnally soporific In den Nachmittag Geflustert (Whispered in the Afternoon) after a poem by Georg Trakl. He could not have wished for a more intense exponent than Gray.
More silence - to be brutally dismissed by a furious, quadruple fortissimo full-keyboard glissando announcing Matthew Hindson's AK47, wielded perhaps by children spraying death and damnation with total lack of discrimination.
The precious four pieces of Janacek's In the Mists have their own tensions, but are always each resolved with reassuring concords. Gray's penetrating intelligence lifted the fog just enough to let light shine through, ending the most satisfying contemporary concert this critic has known.

Elizabeth Silsbury


Review taken from 'Sun', Kuala Lumpur 

"The shocker of the night had to be an Aussie.  Antony Gray came in the place of his friend Jean-Bernard Marie, who had to cancel on a count of illness.  The piece he played was called AK-47 (named after the Kalashnikov rifle), and composed by a young Australian composer named Matthew Hindson.   It was loud, cacaphonic, anarchic, difficult, hammered, wild and vicious - and I loved it !  I later prevailed upon him to play it on the concert night, and he thinks that perhaps he might.  Malaysian sensibilities be damned, this is heavy metal in coat tails and I cannot wait to hear it again."

Australian Financial Review - GREAT DISCS - Eugene Goossens - Kaleidoscope, Antony Gray, piano

"Antony Gray is a great advocate of new nusic and is celebrated for his performances of works by Malcolm Williamson. But for his first solo release, Gray has been engaged by ABC Classics to perform early works for solo piano by Eugene Goossens, the former conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. These are very playful, very French works, constantly nodding at Satie, Ravel and especially Debussy. The title work consists of a dozen miniatures from a childs life. Scherzo (opus 38) sounds a little like the piano part in Debussy's 1915 cello sonata,though it never quite tumbles down the melodic slope it has been prancing near. Aside from the elegant ship preludes and Nature Poems, the works are shimmering and insubstantial. But their tranquility and colour can delight."