Author Topic: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.  (Read 23830 times)

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Offline Superhorn

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Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« on: September 15, 2008, 12:35:07 PM »
    It's  a  shame  that  Albert  Roussel (1869 - 1937 ),   has  been  overshadowed  by  his  French
contemporaries  Debussy  and  Ravel.  Perhaps  his  music  lacks  the  immediate  sensuous   surface  appeal  of  these  two,  but   Roussel's  music  may  actually  have  more  depth  and  substance,  as  heretical  as  this  may   sound  to  some.
    He  was  not   an  impressionist  composer ;  in  fact,  his   highly   individual   music  is  difficult  to
pidgeonhole,  like  his  great  Danish  contemporary  Carl Nielsen. 
    Roussel's  music   is  rugged  and  forthright,  with   pounding  rhthms  and  pungently   dissonant 
harmonies.  There  is  no  affected  Gallic  chi-chi-  and  frou-frou  in  it.
    The   compact  and  brilliant  3rd  symphony  is  occaisionally  heard   at  concerts,  but   his other  works   
are  unfortunately  rarely  heard,  although  there  have  been  a  fair  number  of  recordings.
     The  relatively  early  first  symphony , in  which  each  movement  represents  one  of  the  four  seasons,  still  shows   the  influence  of  Debussy ,  is   an  attractive  work,  but  the  craggy  and   austere
second   takes  some  getting  used  to.   The  fourth  is   also  compact  and  energetic,  like  the  third.
     The   colorful  balet  score  Bacchus   et  Ariane   would  make  a  welcome   change   at  concerts
from  Ravel's  Daphis  et  Chloe,  and  the  ballet   The  Spider's  Feast  is  an  intriguing   score   which 
portrays  a  spider  which  preys  on  insects   in  a  garden.
    Evocations,  in  three  parts,  with  chorus  and  soloists  in  the  third,  is  a  dazzling   evocation
of  Roussel's   visit  to  the  great  temples  of  Indochina.
     The  Suite  in  F  for  orchestra  is  an  invigorating  work.
    The  great  Opera/Ballet  Padmavati,  premiered  in  1923  by  the  Paris  opera,  but  rarely   revived 
subsequently   is  a  fantastically  colorful  and  exotic  tale  of  India   during  the  Mughal   conquest.
    Roussel  had  spent  time   visiting  India  with  his  wife,  and  the  opera   incorporates  Hindu  scales
and  captures  the  authentic  local  color  far  better  than  such  entertaining  but   faux   Indian
operas  such  as  Delibes'   Lakme   and  Bizet's  The  Pearl  Fishers.
    This  rarely  heard  masterpiece  was  revived  this  March  in  Paris  to  considerable  acclaim,  and
one  hopes   it  will  appear  on  DVD.
    Do  not  miss  the  superb  EMI  recording  which  has  recently  been   reissued,  with  Marilyn
Horne, Nicolai  Gedda  and  Jose  van  Dam,  conducted   by  Michel  Plasson.
     Roussel's  orchestral  music  has  been  recorded  by   such  eminent  conductors   as    Jean  Martinon
(a  pupil ),  Charles  Munch,  Charles  Dutoit,  Marek Janowski,  Yan  Pascal  Tortelier,  Neeme   Jarvi
and  others.  These  recordings  may  not  all  be  available,  but  are  worth  looking  for.
    If  any  composer   ever  deserved  to  be  better  known,  Albert   Roussel  is  one  of  them.

Offline Dundonnell

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  • Edmund Rubbra(1901-86)
Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2008, 12:52:44 PM »
I totally agree with you! Roussel is indeed a composer who merits a lot of respect and, certainly, more exposure.

Your excellent post covers most of his principal works but I would also mention the fine Sinfonietta for strings and the very seldom performed Piano Concerto as pieces which repay careful listening.

There have been a number of recent recordings to add to those you mention. Eschenbach and the Orchestre de Paris have recorded the symphonies for the Finnish label Ondine to mixed reviews but there is also a very good Naxos cycle with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under its bright new principal conductor, the Frenchman Stephane Deneve, which has, to date, encompassed the 2nd and 3rd symphonies and is certainly worth sampling.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2008, 01:03:36 PM »
Oh, and I should have added this cracking Timpani CD-

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classRev/2004/Oct04/Roussel_psalm80.htm

Splendid, dramatic, at times barbaric choral pieces which show Roussel in a thoroughly unbuttoned vein :) :) Highly recommended to those who like a good wallow in choral splendour :)

Offline Brewski

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2008, 01:05:56 PM »
I was a little surprised we didn't have a Roussel thread already, but there you go.  I am particularly fond of Bacchus et Ariane and Le Festin de l'araignée (The Spider's Feast), two wonderful scores.  Not sure at the moment which recordings I have of these...

Since I don't have many recordings, I'll be looking at the suggestions here with interest.

--Bruce
Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.
     ~ Gustav Mahler

Twitter: @brucehodgesny

Offline Dundonnell

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  • Edmund Rubbra(1901-86)
Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2008, 02:36:15 PM »
I was a little surprised we didn't have a Roussel thread already, but there you go.  I am particularly fond of Bacchus et Ariane and Le Festin de l'araignée (The Spider's Feast), two wonderful scores.  Not sure at the moment which recordings I have of these...

Since I don't have many recordings, I'll be looking at the suggestions here with interest.

--Bruce

Yan Pascal Tortelier's recording for Chandos of these two ballet scores takes some beating imo.

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2008, 08:20:59 AM »
I'm looking forward to hearing the Third Symphony next month at Severance Hall. Marc Minkowski is conducting the Cleveland.

Sarge
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

Offline The new erato

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2008, 08:23:26 AM »
I'm looking forward to hearing the Third Symphony next month at Severance Hall. Marc Minkowski is conducting the Cleveland.

Sarge

Minkowski with the Clevelanders? What's the world coming to? My favorite Lully and Gluck conductor?

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2008, 08:29:59 AM »
Minkowski with the Clevelanders? What's the world coming to? My favorite Lully and Gluck conductor?

Odd, isn't it. Should be "interesting."

One week earlier the Cleveland has this programmed:

Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 8:00 PM
Saturday, October 25, 2008 at 8:00 PM
Sunday, October 26, 2008 at 3:00 PM

Severance Hall

Bach & Handel
The Cleveland Orchestra
Nicholas McGegan, conductor
William Preucil, violin
Desmond Hoebig, cello
Joshua Smith, flute
Frank Rosenwein, oboe

Rameau: Suite from Naïs
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3
Bach: Sinfonia concertante in C major
Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks

Sarge
« Last Edit: September 21, 2008, 08:31:58 AM by Sergeant Rock »
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

Drasko

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2008, 08:50:07 AM »
Minkowski with the Clevelanders? What's the world coming to? My favorite Lully and Gluck conductor?

He conducted Bruckner with Dresden Staatskapelle earlier this year, The Pink Cat seems to have quite liked it - review.

Online vandermolen

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2008, 10:18:13 AM »
Roussel, yes, an interesting composer. Symphony 3 and 4 are my favourites, since I owned them on a Decca Eclipse LP decades ago.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Homo Aestheticus

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2008, 10:55:59 AM »
Superhorn,

There  is  no  affected  Gallic  chi-chi-  and  frou-frou  in  it.

Um, excuse me but would you please explain what you mean by... "Gallic chi-chi and frou-frou" ?   

Which pieces do you have in mind ?   

:-[

Offline some guy

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2008, 02:58:00 PM »
Superhorn,

Um, excuse me but would you please explain what you mean by... "Gallic chi-chi and frou-frou" ?   

Which pieces do you have in mind ?   

:-[

Haha! Good one, AP. I was just about to ask the same question, then I got to your post.

So now ya got two of us asking, Superhorn! >:D

karlhenning

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2008, 03:19:29 PM »
Which pieces do you have in mind ?   

Not to change the subject back to the topic, but . . . Eric, have you heard any Roussel?

karlhenning

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2008, 03:20:40 PM »
I was a little surprised we didn't have a Roussel thread already, but there you go.  I am particularly fond of Bacchus et Ariane and Le Festin de l'araignée (The Spider's Feast), two wonderful scores.

These remain on my "To See To" list, Bruce . . . and I should revisit the symphonies, in all events, too.

Homo Aestheticus

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2008, 04:37:18 PM »
So now ya got two of us asking, Superhorn! >:D

Yeah, and what does the word 'frou-frou' mean anyway ?

???


Homo Aestheticus

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #15 on: September 21, 2008, 04:40:13 PM »
Not to change the subject back to the topic, but . . . Eric, have you heard any Roussel?

Not a single note I'm afraid....  :-[    Although I do have an unwrapped CD (EMI) of Karajan conducting his Third Symphony (?) somewhere on my shelf.

karlhenning

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #16 on: September 21, 2008, 05:29:42 PM »
Not a single note I'm afraid....  :-[    Although I do have an unwrapped CD (EMI) of Karajan conducting his Third Symphony (?) somewhere on my shelf.

Crack it open! Give it a shot!

Offline Superhorn

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #17 on: September 22, 2008, 06:21:30 AM »
   What  I  meant  about  chi-chi  is  that some  French  composers ,such  as  Poulenc,  have aimed  at  a  certain  light, breezy,elegant  way  of  writing  music  and  are  determined  to  avoid  teutonic   weightiness,  profundity, pomposity  and  turgidity  at  all  costs. 
   This  has  sometimes  led  to  a  kind  of  affected,  mincing  preciosity.  I  think  Poulenc  is  the  perfect  example  of  this.  I  have  always  found   his  music  irritatingly  cutesy-pie.  Roussel's  music  has  no  preciosity;  it  is  rugged  and  forthright.  I  by  the  way,  I  don't  think  there's  anything  wrong  with   Teutonic  profundity.

karlhenning

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #18 on: September 22, 2008, 06:23:53 AM »
A determination to avoid turgidity can only be applauded, of course.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #19 on: September 22, 2008, 06:55:02 AM »
   What  I  meant  about  chi-chi  is  that some  French  composers ,such  as  Poulenc,  have aimed  at  a  certain  light, breezy,elegant  way  of  writing  music  and  are  determined  to  avoid  teutonic   weightiness,  profundity, pomposity  and  turgidity  at  all  costs. 
   This  has  sometimes  led  to  a  kind  of  affected,  mincing  preciosity.  I  think  Poulenc  is  the  perfect  example  of  this.  I  have  always  found   his  music  irritatingly  cutesy-pie.  Roussel's  music  has  no  preciosity;  it  is  rugged  and  forthright.  I  by  the  way,  I  don't  think  there's  anything  wrong  with   Teutonic  profundity.

I think that Jean Francaix probably falls into this category too :)

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