Randall Goosby: Roots (Decca)
Goosby has all the technique anyone could need — but he still has a lot to learn about taste and selection
Summertime is an ideal moment to break a new artist, a time when big names are out of town and the flow of label releases dries up.
Randall Goosby, 25, is Decca’s new poster-boy violinist.
With an African American father and Korean mother, he has been groomed for a stage career by Itzhak Perlman and the Juilliard fame school. He has major-league management in London and New York and a pleasant way of engaging with media. What could possibly go wrong?
There is a real sense of pleasure in how Goosby plays and what he wants to convey
On first impression — this is his debut album — Goosby has all the technique anyone could need and an off-the-shoulder phrasing that allows him to project youthful insouciance. His tone is clean as a scalpel and there is a real sense of pleasure in how he plays and what he wants to convey. The way he turns a 1735 Guarneri del Gesù into a country fiddle in bluesy works by Xavier Dubois Foley and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson is the mark of a natural musician who is organically at ease with whatever instrument he plays.
The problem here is programming: specifically, taste and selection. All but two of the works are by African American composers and, while William Grant Still is always worth hearing and Florence Price sometimes, the homogeny can become wearing.
Jascha Heifetz’s greatest hits from Porgy and Bess do little to vary the mood and Dvorak’s opus 100 American sonatina is spruced-up country music in all but name. This listener feels short-changed. I blame the Grammy-laden producer David Frost for not mixing it up more, nor insisting on a piano partner of greater character and challenging propensity than the desperately untesting Zhu Wang.
This is a cocktail platter of packaged bites. Goosby will need to do better next time around. When we hear him in a Brahms sonata, or one by Ives, we’ll get more of a sense of who he is and what he might become.
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