Cataloguing the Eugene Goossens collection of music scores

Cataloguing the Eugene Goossens collection of music scores
17 January 2011

In late 2009, the National Library acquired the Eugene Goossens collection of music scores as part of the Symphony Australia collection. Some of the music in the Eugene Goossens collection was obviously owned by Eugene Goossens, notated with "EG" and a running number, and had been incorporated into a larger batch of material formerly owned by Symphony Australia. The collection has a broad depth, with material dating from 1720 to the early 1970s, containing both published and unpublished manuscript copies of works. It also contains a small selection of related ephemera which have been kept with the items they accompanied. In his time, Eugene Goossens was a prominent and well known composer and conductor. This is evident from the material in the Goossens collection, many of which have been inscribed by their composers specifically to Goossens. For instance, Shostakovich's Seventh symphony for orchestra, op. 60 has been inscribed to Goossens, and is accompanied by a letter from the Embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics detailing the nature of the gift to Goossens. Stravinsky's well known Firebird suite, or Suite de L'oiseau de fue is similarly inscribed by the composer: To Gene Goossens, in admiration, Igor Strawinsky, New York 1947.

Shostakovich’s Seventh symphony for orchestra

Shostakovich’s Seventh symphony for orchestra, op. 60, inscribed to Goossens

Many of the items owned by Goossens have also been notated throughout, presumably to reflect Goossens' own cuts and directions for performance. Some include manuscript sections of additional material or revised sections of the works. The collection contains a range of material from popular composers such as Wagner, Handel, Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Meyerbeer, Mozart and Rossini, with copies of their works in various languages. The collection is also home to a few volumes of  A select collection of Scottish airs with music by Pleyel, Kozeluch & Haydn and for which Robbie Burns wrote 100 new songs. Cataloguing the Goossens collection was rewarding, though not without its challenges! The oldest items in the collection often had no printed dates of publication on them and detective work was required to try and figure out when they were published and even sometimes by which publisher. Clues to publication dates and publishers often came in the form of plate numbers (which are printed at the bottom of each page) and publisher addresses (which changed over time as the fortunes of publishing houses waxed and waned). Other challenges arose in trying to decipher handwriting of some of the inscriptions on the items - some were considerably worse than a doctor's, others in foreign languages and script such as Shostakovich's inscription on his KONTSERT dlia fortepiano s orestrom, op. 35.

Flyer for the N.S.W. State Conservatorium’s 1951 opera season

Flyer for the N.S.W. State Conservatorium’s 1951 opera season, directed by Goossens

The accompanying ephemeral items highlight some of the more personal dealings that Goossens had with his colleagues in Australia. A manuscript copy of Figaro dialogue is accompanied by a photocopy of an article on Goossens' appointment as the conductor f the N.S.W. Orchestra from the Sydney morning herald, 19 November, 1946; an undated letter from Goossens to Charles [Moses, general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission] in which Goossens requests a "first class radio" to be sent to him (markings in the margins of the letter indicate "radio set supplied 3/11/50"); a flyer for the N.S.W. State Conservatorium's 1951 opera season, directed by Goossens (performances listed include his own "Judith" in which dame Joan Sutherland made her debut, and Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi"); and a letter from Goossens to Marie and Lindley Evans thanking them for their friendship, dated May 1956, just prior to his departure to England following  a public scandal.