Although not a household name, Eugene Goossens was a major influence behind several great advancements in music worldwide during the 20th Century. Born in London, Goossens gained a reputation as a brilliant young conductor with considerable musicianship, and an ability to quickly comprehend complex contemporary compositions. His passion for all things musical saw him absorb all that pre-World War I London had to offer, and the tenacious young Goossens was soon conducting performances of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and opera productions at Covent Garden. In 1921 he formed his own orchestra with the aim of performing contemporary music, and gave the first performance in London of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, after which he was dubbed "London's Music Wizard".
After 20 years conducting and teaching in the USA, Goossens was lured to Australia with a massive salary, and the chance to transform the music scene. Appointed chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO) and director of the New South Wales Conservatorium, he relished the opportunity to change the way music was approached. By refreshing personnel at both the SSO and Conservatorium, Goossens was soon able to broaden the repertoire and reputation of both institutions. Australia was introduced to major works previously considered too difficult for performance, such as Mahler's 1st, 7th and 8th Symphonies, Strauss' Alpine Symphony, Elektra and Salome as well as two fully staged opera productions a year at the Conservatorium. Subscriptions to the SSO doubled, and they were able to bring internationally acclaimed soloists and conductors to perform. His dream of making the orchestra one of the six best in the world was becoming a reality. Among these numerous achievements, perhaps Goossens' most significant in Australia was his successful lobbying of the NSW Government to build an opera house in Sydney. From as early as 1947, Goossens campaigned for the city to have a versatile performing arts venue, and even chose the final location for the opera house.
Although a champion of contemporary music on the conductor's podium, Goossens' own compositions favour French impressionism over contemporary Germanic styles. This is especially true of his early works, including Five Impressions of a Holiday, written in 1914. After receiving a copy of Debussy's Estampes as a Christmas present from a friend, Goossens became inspired by the pictorial style of writing that Debussy used in the piece. The five movements of Goossens' work are In the Hills, By the Rivers, The Water Wheel, The Village Church and At the Fair, each scene delicately portrayed using tone colours and textures.