Goehr Colossos or Panic

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Alexander Goehr
ALBUM TITLE: Goehr Colossos or Panic
WORKS: Colossos or Panic; The Deluge; Little Symphony
PERFORMER: Clair Booth (soprano), HilarySummers (contralto); Birmingham Contemporary Music group, ASKO-Schönberg Ensemble, BBC Symphony Orchestra/Oliver Knussen


Alexander Goehr’s has been a composing life with a set of values so consistent, and with a level of achievement of match, that it’s a major pleasure to welcome this survey of music written by him across four decades. Colossos or Panic, premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1992, was inspired by the famous Goya painting of a giant bestriding a landscape peopled by terrified Lilliputian humans below. Goehr’s incisive and lucid post-Schoenbergian idiom here delivers a highly dramatic study in the interplay of musical stasis and movement. The Deluge, dating from 1959, explores related territory (a prose sketch by Leonardo da Vinci, depicting images of flood and catastrophe) with the same striking sense of suspended animation, beautifully controlled in harmonic terms. The title of the Little Symphony of 1963 relates to its smaller than usual orchestral line-up: this is in fact a four-movement, 30-minute statement whose quality of invention never lets up after the preludial Lentissimo first movement. Oliver Knussen directs performances that are as far from routine as it’s possible to get, with wonderfully vivid results: the ear-catching poetry conjured in the Little Symphony’s closing bars is just one of countless similar moments.


Malcolm Hayes