Léon (Leon) Goossens (1897-1988) was one of the most significant figures in the history of the oboe. He was an orchestral player, teacher and concert artist with a career which spanned more than half a century. It was Goossens’ talents and efforts which helped broaden the literature of his chosen instrument. Goossens’ professional career, begun at the age of ten, had a remarkable span of over sixty five years. It included not only orchestral playing, but also teaching and performing as a concert soloist.
In June of 1921 Léon was part of the “Goossens Orchestra,” conducted by his brother, which gave the historic first concert performance of The Rite of Spring in England. The concert, attended by Diaghilev, Massine and Stravinsky, was a tremendous success and was repeated several days later. The orchestra gave four more performances of important new twentieth century works by Debussy, Ravel, Honegger and Schoenberg, before it was disbanded due to lack of funds.Goossens, as the leading oboist of his day, was also influential as a teacher and the major proponent of the British school of oboe playing. It has been suggested that Goossens was personally responsible for the development of vibrato among English oboists. While most of Léon Goossens’ solo career took place after World War II, it began much earlier. In 1928 he made his American debut, in New York at the Guild Theater. The program included the Mozart and Arthur Bliss oboe quartets, and a new sonata by Harvard music professor David Stanley Smith. In January of 1929 Léon returned to New York for several more concerts, concluding with a concert at Jordan Hall in Boston where he performed his brother’s new oboe concerto. Goossens next returned to the United States in June of 1939 to play in two concerts sponsored by the British Council for the World’s Fair. Adrian Boult conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Carnegie Hall. The audience was enthusiastic and Goossens received multiple curtain calls. Léon Goossens’ solo career took him all over the globe.
In the summer of 1954 he and Eugene III gave a series of concerts in Sydney and Adelaide, Australia. Léon also performed in New Zealand and Singapore, and he toured Yugoslavia the same year. The following year he visited Turkey and Austria. In 1956, Goossens toured the Soviet Union with a British music delegation headed by the Master of the Queen’s Musick. The group consisted of many other notable musicians, such as Sir Arthur Bliss, David Oistrakh and Gerald Moore. Goossens’ subsequent tours included a “coast-to-coast” tour of Canada in 1957, and performances in Scandinavia and Portugal in 1959.”