Author Topic: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.  (Read 36324 times)

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Online Brian

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #240 on: March 27, 2019, 08:06:20 AM »
Presumably they simply included this set:

which is out of print, but already in my shopping cart (used).
Yes, the CD sleeves for the songs even have that cover art on them.

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #241 on: March 27, 2019, 07:58:33 PM »
To people using iTunes to rip music, has anyone who owns this Erato set had trouble bringing up the information of each disc?
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Online Brian

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #242 on: May 06, 2019, 11:28:39 AM »
I got my copy of Erato's "Albert Roussel Edition" yesterday and thought I would share some thoughts since it hasn't been much discussed on storefronts online or here at GMG.

It's a mostly white box except for that cover -



The sleeves inside all have fake/mocked-up artwork in the style of old Erato covers. I think what they did was took the original LP cover for one of the recordings on the CD, then added all the other stuff on the CD to the artwork text. It's kind of a classy solution, honestly - you get visually appealing jackets and you also get full 75 minute CDs. Full track lists and recording details are on the backs of every paper sleeve, which is nice (and something EMI was too lazy to do with its "Icons" boxes).

There is one solo instrumental CD (mostly piano but also harp and guitar), one chamber, 6 orchestral, 1.5 CDs of songs, and then at the end of the 2 CDs devoted to Padmavati, they've added a bunch of recordings of Roussel himself conducting and playing piano. My memory isn't perfect but I think Symphony 1 is Dutoit, 2 is Martinon, and 3 and 4 are Munch. Martinon does a lot of the heavy lifting in the orchestral stuff. Andrew Litton is the pianist for Joueurs de flute.

I didn't read the booklet essay but it appears to be a broad overview of the composer and his works, 3-4 pages iirc. In general, this has been very classily done and I look forward to much happy listening to it. Also makes me more likely to buy new Warner/Erato box sets in the future.

So far I've listened to:

CD1: The piano works and some solo works for other instruments. The sonatina in two movements and "Segovia," a two-minute encore for guitar, made the strongest impressions here. Turibio Santos is a super cool guitarist and Roussel's imitation of Spanish guitar is spot-on. The piano Suite Op. 14 is bogged down by a repetitive, slow opening movement. Flute piece is nice if generic.

CD2: Chamber works (not the whole CD though). Probably overall my least favorite disc so far. I have some of these works on a Brilliant Classics set, and neither feature the world's greatest artists.

CD4: Le Festin de l'araignée suite. A wonderful half-hour wonderfully played.

CD5: Suite in F. This is one of my favorite bits of light music ever, so it gets a lot of airtime in my house. The performance in this box is crackling and witty, as good as Paray on Mercury Living Presence.

CD6: Le Bardit des Francs, Madrigal aux muses, Psaume LXXX, Petite Suite, Symphony No. 3. Munch's performance of the Symphony is A+ stuff. The Psaume is a truly wild piece, with an almost violent opening that is far from suggesting religious fervor...high contrasts between sections and the bits of old-school religious harmony, when they arrive, are like beams of sun between the clouds. The Madrigal aux muses is actually a kinda cool little miniature, for three female voices.

General comments: Listening to this much Roussel in rapid succession confirms that the guy uses a handful of tricks over and over. One is the kind of motoric rhythm-as-melody writing that that would so heavily influence Roussel's protégé, Martinu. (Sidebar for Mirror Image: Roussel and Martinu are very heavily linked in my mind. Even more so than, say, Roussel and Debussy, which would be an accurate prism to view the Frenchman's earlier work like Symphony No. 1 and Le marchand de sable qui passe, which tragically is NOT in this Erato box.) There are lots of fast movements with the kind of ticky-tocky stuff that should not be catchy, but is, much like in Martinu's 30s neobaroque stuff.

The other thing that Roussel reminds me of...and this will require a bit of explanation...is Erroll Garner.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/tASVN1YGYZg" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/tASVN1YGYZg</a>

Garner has this constant mannerism - it's my favorite thing about him - where every tune begins with this wild, thorny introduction that has absolutely no apparent relation to what follows. And your ears are getting absolutely whacked by this nutty loud intro with grinding dissonances and crazy chords - and then oops, Garner just slips right into some super famous pop tune. Everybody grins and laughs and settles back. Then, next song, he starts playing something insane again and you sit forward going "What the hell is this one going to be?"

So many Roussel pieces are like that!! Hearing them all side by side in a box, I notice time and again that he seems to use modernity as a sort of trick. Roussel whomps your ears with something bizarre (like the start of Psaume LXXX) and you go "What the hell is this?!" and then the harmony takes a sharp left turn, the key might go from minor to major, and some galloping wonderful melody resolves out of the ensemble and you go, "Oh, THAT's what this is about." Another classic example, of course, is the overture to Bacchus et Ariane. So as the set went on, I started listening to each new work with the mindset of, "Wow, this is off to a weird start, where on earth is he gonna go?" And then he finds some way to claw out of the corner and toward his primary voice.

So far the box has not changed the list of Roussel works I'd consider favorites, except the tiny "Segovia," but there is still plenty of time. Especially with the albums of songs; between this and the Fauré songs in the Michel Dalberto box, I now have a whole lot of French chansons to get through in the coming months.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2019, 11:30:51 AM by Brian »

Ghost of Baron Scarpia

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #243 on: May 06, 2019, 11:35:41 AM »
as good as Paray on Mercury Living Presence.

I forgot I have that!

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #244 on: May 06, 2019, 01:20:56 PM »
So far I've listened to:

CD1: The piano works and some solo works for other instruments. The sonatina in two movements and "Segovia," a two-minute encore for guitar, made the strongest impressions here. Turibio Santos is a super cool guitarist and Roussel's imitation of Spanish guitar is spot-on. The piano Suite Op. 14 is bogged down by a repetitive, slow opening movement. Flute piece is nice if generic.

CD2: Chamber works (not the whole CD though). Probably overall my least favorite disc so far. I have some of these works on a Brilliant Classics set, and neither feature the world's greatest artists.

CD4: Le Festin de l'araignée suite. A wonderful half-hour wonderfully played.

CD5: Suite in F. This is one of my favorite bits of light music ever, so it gets a lot of airtime in my house. The performance in this box is crackling and witty, as good as Paray on Mercury Living Presence.

CD6: Le Bardit des Francs, Madrigal aux muses, Psaume LXXX, Petite Suite, Symphony No. 3. Munch's performance of the Symphony is A+ stuff. The Psaume is a truly wild piece, with an almost violent opening that is far from suggesting religious fervor...high contrasts between sections and the bits of old-school religious harmony, when they arrive, are like beams of sun between the clouds. The Madrigal aux muses is actually a kinda cool little miniature, for three female voices.

General comments: Listening to this much Roussel in rapid succession confirms that the guy uses a handful of tricks over and over. One is the kind of motoric rhythm-as-melody writing that that would so heavily influence Roussel's protégé, Martinu. (Sidebar for Mirror Image: Roussel and Martinu are very heavily linked in my mind. Even more so than, say, Roussel and Debussy, which would be an accurate prism to view the Frenchman's earlier work like Symphony No. 1 and Le marchand de sable qui passe, which tragically is NOT in this Erato box.) There are lots of fast movements with the kind of ticky-tocky stuff that should not be catchy, but is, much like in Martinu's 30s neobaroque stuff.

The other thing that Roussel reminds me of...and this will require a bit of explanation...is Erroll Garner.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/tASVN1YGYZg" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/tASVN1YGYZg</a>

Garner has this constant mannerism - it's my favorite thing about him - where every tune begins with this wild, thorny introduction that has absolutely no apparent relation to what follows. And your ears are getting absolutely whacked by this nutty loud intro with grinding dissonances and crazy chords - and then oops, Garner just slips right into some super famous pop tune. Everybody grins and laughs and settles back. Then, next song, he starts playing something insane again and you sit forward going "What the hell is this one going to be?"

So many Roussel pieces are like that!! Hearing them all side by side in a box, I notice time and again that he seems to use modernity as a sort of trick. Roussel whomps your ears with something bizarre (like the start of Psaume LXXX) and you go "What the hell is this?!" and then the harmony takes a sharp left turn, the key might go from minor to major, and some galloping wonderful melody resolves out of the ensemble and you go, "Oh, THAT's what this is about." Another classic example, of course, is the overture to Bacchus et Ariane. So as the set went on, I started listening to each new work with the mindset of, "Wow, this is off to a weird start, where on earth is he gonna go?" And then he finds some way to claw out of the corner and toward his primary voice.

So far the box has not changed the list of Roussel works I'd consider favorites, except the tiny "Segovia," but there is still plenty of time. Especially with the albums of songs; between this and the Fauré songs in the Michel Dalberto box, I now have a whole lot of French chansons to get through in the coming months.

Thanks for the write-up, Brian. Quite informative, although I knew of the Roussel/Martinů connection. I still have yet to find Roussel’s personal compositional voice, though and Martinů’s voice is instantly recognizable to me and, as you know, he’s one of my favorite composers. Roussel lacks a certain kind of lyricism in his music that I hear in Martinů all day long. Roussel seems black/white while Martinů is working in technicolor. I don’t know if this makes any sense, but it’s my roundabout way of saying that, while Roussel is an interesting figure in 20th Century French music, he’ll never come close to exciting me the way Debussy or Ravel have done (and continue to do).
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline ritter

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #245 on: May 07, 2019, 07:49:25 AM »
So far I've listened to:

CD1: The piano works and some solo works for other instruments. The sonatina in two movements and "Segovia," a two-minute encore for guitar, made the strongest impressions here. Turibio Santos is a super cool guitarist and Roussel's imitation of Spanish guitar is spot-on. The piano Suite Op. 14 is bogged down by a repetitive, slow opening movement. Flute piece is nice if generic.

CD2: Chamber works (not the whole CD though). Probably overall my least favorite disc so far. I have some of these works on a Brilliant Classics set, and neither feature the world's greatest artists.

CD4: Le Festin de l'araignée suite. A wonderful half-hour wonderfully played.

CD5: Suite in F. This is one of my favorite bits of light music ever, so it gets a lot of airtime in my house. The performance in this box is crackling and witty, as good as Paray on Mercury Living Presence.

CD6: Le Bardit des Francs, Madrigal aux muses, Psaume LXXX, Petite Suite, Symphony No. 3. Munch's performance of the Symphony is A+ stuff. The Psaume is a truly wild piece, with an almost violent opening that is far from suggesting religious fervor...high contrasts between sections and the bits of old-school religious harmony, when they arrive, are like beams of sun between the clouds. The Madrigal aux muses is actually a kinda cool little miniature, for three female voices.

General comments: Listening to this much Roussel in rapid succession confirms that the guy uses a handful of tricks over and over. One is the kind of motoric rhythm-as-melody writing that that would so heavily influence Roussel's protégé, Martinu. (Sidebar for Mirror Image: Roussel and Martinu are very heavily linked in my mind. Even more so than, say, Roussel and Debussy, which would be an accurate prism to view the Frenchman's earlier work like Symphony No. 1 and Le marchand de sable qui passe, which tragically is NOT in this Erato box.) There are lots of fast movements with the kind of ticky-tocky stuff that should not be catchy, but is, much like in Martinu's 30s neobaroque stuff.

The other thing that Roussel reminds me of...and this will require a bit of explanation...is Erroll Garner.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/tASVN1YGYZg" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/tASVN1YGYZg</a>

Garner has this constant mannerism - it's my favorite thing about him - where every tune begins with this wild, thorny introduction that has absolutely no apparent relation to what follows. And your ears are getting absolutely whacked by this nutty loud intro with grinding dissonances and crazy chords - and then oops, Garner just slips right into some super famous pop tune. Everybody grins and laughs and settles back. Then, next song, he starts playing something insane again and you sit forward going "What the hell is this one going to be?"

So many Roussel pieces are like that!! Hearing them all side by side in a box, I notice time and again that he seems to use modernity as a sort of trick. Roussel whomps your ears with something bizarre (like the start of Psaume LXXX) and you go "What the hell is this?!" and then the harmony takes a sharp left turn, the key might go from minor to major, and some galloping wonderful melody resolves out of the ensemble and you go, "Oh, THAT's what this is about." Another classic example, of course, is the overture to Bacchus et Ariane. So as the set went on, I started listening to each new work with the mindset of, "Wow, this is off to a weird start, where on earth is he gonna go?" And then he finds some way to claw out of the corner and toward his primary voice.

So far the box has not changed the list of Roussel works I'd consider favorites, except the tiny "Segovia," but there is still plenty of time. Especially with the albums of songs; between this and the Fauré songs in the Michel Dalberto box, I now have a whole lot of French chansons to get through in the coming months.
A very inetersting read, Brian. Thanks!

I'm going through the box myself. I did like the beginneing of the Piano Suite, op. 14, but found that the later movements were tiresome (so effectively the opposite reaction to yours  ;)).

Now going through CD6: The Psaume is interesting if slightly disconcerting. The a capella piece for female voices said nothing to me, and I found the vocal performances so-so at best  ::). The Petite suite sounded very Gershwin-esque in this performance (even if I don't think Roussel could have listened to An American in Paris when he was compsoing it). The Symphony No. 3 under Münch is, as you say, a stunner! Great, great recording.

Lots for me to explore still. Loooking forward to it... :)
« Last Edit: May 07, 2019, 08:10:23 AM by ritter »
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Ghost of Baron Scarpia

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #246 on: May 07, 2019, 08:01:34 AM »
I think of Roussel as a composer who wrote a relatively small core of very fine works, the symphonies 2, 3, 4, the Sinfonietta, the Suit in F, Bacchus. I like the ascerbic neo-classicism he brings to his mature works. Sometimes I am tempted to think that he is "derivative" or "not original" but then I can't think of any composers whose works make the the same impression. I get a lot of enjoyment from his works.

Offline pjme

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #247 on: May 07, 2019, 08:28:07 AM »
"Evocations" is a delightful (early) work.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/9dIpnQjgF4c" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/9dIpnQjgF4c</a>

I hope to hear it in Utrecht / Vredenburg / september 20th

Radio Filharmonisch Orkest
Groot Omroepkoor
James Gaffigan dirigent
Sasha Cooke mezzosopraan
Cécile van de Sant alt
Alessandro Fischer tenor
Jean-Luc Ballestra bariton

programma
Debussy Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
Ravel Shéhérazade
Roussel Évocations


Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #248 on: May 07, 2019, 09:49:19 AM »
I think of Roussel as a composer who wrote a relatively small core of very fine works, the symphonies 2, 3, 4, the Sinfonietta, the Suit in F, Bacchus. I like the ascerbic neo-classicism he brings to his mature works. Sometimes I am tempted to think that he is "derivative" or "not original" but then I can't think of any composers whose works make the the same impression. I get a lot of enjoyment from his works.

The problem I’ve had (or continue having) is that I don’t really hear an individual compositional voice in Roussel’s music. I’ll admit to liking his Symphony No. 3 a lot (that middle movement Adagio is gorgeous) and I do like the ballets like Le Festin de l’araignée and Bacchus et Ariane, but even with these works I’d say they don’t exactly excite me or intrigue me. I guess I’ll just have to put him in the category of ‘to listen to 10 years from now’.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Online Brian

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #249 on: May 07, 2019, 10:07:13 AM »
I guess I’ll just have to put him in the category of ‘to listen to 10 years from now’.

Yup. I think he's just not for you, or you don't like him, or whatever. You're listening to the right stuff and Roussel really has a big bold vibrant voice - none of these works sound like anybody else to me, I totally agree with Scarpia on this - but it's just not a voice you're getting. No harm in that. Plenty of composers I don't get.

I also agree with Scarpia that the list of really good Roussel is pretty short. But I also have a soft spot for the really early works because I like all that fluffy impressionist genre of stuff.

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #250 on: May 14, 2019, 07:13:54 PM »
Cross-posted from the ‘Listening’ thread -

Now:

Roussel
Symphony No. 1 in D minor ("Le poème de la forêt"), Op. 7
Leif Segerstam, conductor
Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz




Absolutely stunning! I’m not sure where my mind was many weeks ago when I said Roussel wasn’t for me, but I was clearly listening with some concrete in my ears. It seems that I’m going to be preferring older performances of Roussel to the newer ones. There’s a certain magic here from Segerstam that I just don’t hear from Eschenbach or Denève for example.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2019, 07:30:58 PM by Mirror Image »
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #251 on: May 15, 2019, 01:58:52 PM »
I yearn for a better recording of the String Trio and String Quartet (my two favorite Roussel chamber works).
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Offline Daverz

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #252 on: May 20, 2019, 10:42:55 PM »
I yearn for a better recording of the String Trio and String Quartet (my two favorite Roussel chamber works).

For the String Quartet, I recommend the Quatuor Rosamunde recording I mentioned a few pages back:



There is also an arrangement for saxophone quartet:

« Last Edit: May 20, 2019, 11:01:41 PM by Daverz »

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #253 on: May 21, 2019, 05:46:25 AM »
For the String Quartet, I recommend the Quatuor Rosamunde recording I mentioned a few pages back:



There is also an arrangement for saxophone quartet:



Kudos, Daverz. 8)
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy