Author Topic: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.  (Read 56752 times)

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Offline Catison

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #260 on: July 27, 2021, 06:46:17 PM »
The Roussel and Martinů connection is spot-on and with good reason: Roussel taught Martinů. The interesting thing about Roussel is how his style developed from Impressionism not far removed from Debussy or Ravel into a mixture of Impressionism/Neoclassicism and then finally becoming a full-fledged Neoclassicist, but with a bit of a harder-edged sound to him that set him apart from Stravinsky or even Hindemith. As for works from Martinů that show a Roussel influence, I’d point to ballets like The Butterfly that Stamped, Checkmating the King and The Revolt, but also works like Half-time and Thunderbolt P-47. The chamber works also show some Roussel influence from time to time like the Piano Quintets, Piano Quartet, Nonet et. al. But, after all is said and done, both composers have their own unique voices. Of course, I can spot Martinů’s music a mile off. With Roussel, it’s a bit tougher to figure him out, but I think keeping those stylistic phases of his in mind should help or, at least, they helped me anyway.

Thank you.  I was thinking of the other way around though: what are Roussel pieces that prefigure Martinu's sound?
-Brett

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #261 on: July 27, 2021, 07:10:40 PM »
Thank you.  I was thinking of the other way around though: what are Roussel pieces that prefigure Martinu's sound?

Ah, okay. Well, to me, there are a few like Evocations, Op. 15, Le Festin de l’araignée, Op. 17, but let’s think of both composer’s chronologically for a second: Martinů’s unique voice didn’t come until the early 1920s around the time he started studying with Roussel. And most of Roussel’s more well-known works were composed in the late 20s/30s when Martinů had already formed his recognizable style. I say this with complete respect to Roussel, but Martinů sounds like he was the one who ended up influencing Roussel. It should be noted that Roussel himself was a late starter in composition as he spent a good portion of his earlier life as a Naval officer only later deciding to become a composer. Martinů, on the other hand, was already writing before he studied with Roussel in the mid-to late 1910s. Roussel didn’t fully develop into that hard-edged Neoclassicist until the late 1920s and I’m thinking here of his Symphony No. 3 in G minor, Op. 42 or the Concerto for Small Orchestra, Op. 34 for example, so after Martinů wrote works like Who is the Most Powerful in the World? or Le Raid merveilleux (although this work is actually contemporaneous with Roussel’s Concerto for Small Orchestra). So as you can see, there isn’t really such a thing within Roussel’s own music as ‘proto-Martinů’ because the composer’s mature style was formed after Martinů found his own voice.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2021, 07:13:40 PM by Mirror Image »
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Offline Catison

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #262 on: July 29, 2021, 05:16:23 PM »
Ah, okay. Well, to me, there are a few like Evocations, Op. 15, Le Festin de l’araignée, Op. 17, but let’s think of both composer’s chronologically for a second: Martinů’s unique voice didn’t come until the early 1920s around the time he started studying with Roussel. And most of Roussel’s more well-known works were composed in the late 20s/30s when Martinů had already formed his recognizable style. I say this with complete respect to Roussel, but Martinů sounds like he was the one who ended up influencing Roussel. It should be noted that Roussel himself was a late starter in composition as he spent a good portion of his earlier life as a Naval officer only later deciding to become a composer. Martinů, on the other hand, was already writing before he studied with Roussel in the mid-to late 1910s. Roussel didn’t fully develop into that hard-edged Neoclassicist until the late 1920s and I’m thinking here of his Symphony No. 3 in G minor, Op. 42 or the Concerto for Small Orchestra, Op. 34 for example, so after Martinů wrote works like Who is the Most Powerful in the World? or Le Raid merveilleux (although this work is actually contemporaneous with Roussel’s Concerto for Small Orchestra). So as you can see, there isn’t really such a thing within Roussel’s own music as ‘proto-Martinů’ because the composer’s mature style was formed after Martinů found his own voice.

Thanks.  I never thought of teacher and student influencing each other in such a way.  For me Roussel is definitely the closest sound to Martinu that I have heard, and after listening to so much Martinu, I was astounded that no one picked up his sound world and continued his style.  (I often wonder the same thing about Prokofiev too.)
-Brett

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #263 on: November 02, 2021, 07:48:57 PM »
The 2nd Symphony is hands down the best French symphony. I can't think otherwise. An exquisite, mysterious, dark, haunting, "subtle" and evocative creation. Quite riveting to be honest. It's the perfect bridge between his impressionist and neoclassical phases. For instance, the Trio from the 2nd movement is just bewitching in its majesty. Wow!!! An assured masterpiece in the league of the greats. It's not strange to think that this work could influence Martinu on his last symphony. The form is rather similar too. A desert-island symphony for me.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2021, 07:50:41 PM by Symphonic Addict »
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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #264 on: November 02, 2021, 07:52:44 PM »
The 2nd Symphony is hands down the best French symphony. I can't think otherwise. An exquisite, mysterious, dark, haunting, "subtle" and evocative creation. Quite riveting to be honest. It's the perfect bridge between his impressionist and neoclassical phases. For instance, the Trio from the 2nd movement is just bewitching in its majesty. Wow!!! An assured masterpiece in the league of the greats. It's not strange to think that this work could influence Martinu on his last symphony. The form is rather similar too. A desert-island symphony for me.

I agree in that I think Roussel is the best French symphonist bar none. The 2nd symphony is a fascinating mixture of Impressionism and Neoclassicism. It's almost as if he's still finding his "compositional footing" so to speak. Which performance did you listen to that impressed you so much?

A little follow-up to what you wrote: Roussel was Martinu's teacher, so the influence is quite likely.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2021, 07:58:23 PM by Mirror Image »
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Offline Symphonic Addict

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #265 on: November 02, 2021, 08:00:18 PM »
I agree in that I think Roussel is the best French symphonist bar none. The 2nd symphony is a fascinating mixture of Impressionism and Neoclassicism. It's almost as if he's still finding his "compositional footing" so to speak. Which performance did you listen to that impressed you so much?

From this:



An authentic interpretation, very French with razor playing, yet with a more Neoclassical leaning. At times I was reminded of Stravinsky. A fascinating work.
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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #266 on: November 02, 2021, 08:02:33 PM »
From this:



An authentic interpretation, very French with razor playing, yet with a more Neoclassical leaning. At times I was reminded of Stravinsky. A fascinating work.

Yes, that is a fine 2-CD set. What do you think of Stéphane Denève's cycle on Naxos?
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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #267 on: November 02, 2021, 10:48:46 PM »
Yes, that is a fine 2-CD set. What do you think of Stéphane Denève's cycle on Naxos?

I quite like it, the performances are solid enough to consider it my favorite cycle. I think that the great sonics on these recordings benefit the music, so that is a great plus.
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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #268 on: November 03, 2021, 06:32:08 AM »
I quite like it, the performances are solid enough to consider it my favorite cycle. I think that the great sonics on these recordings benefit the music, so that is a great plus.

I remain indifferent about the Denève cycle. I think the performances are too slack and faceless for me. I wrote a review about it:

This cycle from Stéphane Denève and his Scottish forces seems to get a lot of praise, but, for me, he is hardly competitive when one actually looks deeper into the Roussel discography. I have to say that I think it was a good move on Naxos’ part to record Roussel in the first-place since he’s a composer that still hasn’t received the kind of recognition as Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc or even Messiaen when talking about 20th Century French music. I think one of the problems with Roussel is not his music, but the general lack of modern performances that do his music justice. There have been some outstanding Roussel performances throughout the years, but I hate to say that this Denève set is not one of them. There are three points with what I perceive to be fundamentally wrong with Denève’s performances: 1. lack of visceral excitement and spontaneity, 2. sluggish tempi and 3. no general conception of the music other than to simply ‘play the notes’. Just because you have a French conductor up on the podium conducting a French composer’s music doesn’t mean it’s authoritative or somehow superior and I think this is what some of the reviews I’ve read concerning these recordings fail to address.

For some truly exciting Roussel performances, I say get the newly issued “Roussel Edition” on Erato, which contains many classic performances from Munch to Cluytens to Martinon, but also contains his oft-ignored chamber music, mélodies, solo piano works and his opera, “Padmâvatî”.
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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #269 on: November 04, 2021, 08:59:38 PM »
I remain indifferent about the Denève cycle. I think the performances are too slack and faceless for me. I wrote a review about it:

This cycle from Stéphane Denève and his Scottish forces seems to get a lot of praise, but, for me, he is hardly competitive when one actually looks deeper into the Roussel discography. I have to say that I think it was a good move on Naxos’ part to record Roussel in the first-place since he’s a composer that still hasn’t received the kind of recognition as Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc or even Messiaen when talking about 20th Century French music. I think one of the problems with Roussel is not his music, but the general lack of modern performances that do his music justice. There have been some outstanding Roussel performances throughout the years, but I hate to say that this Denève set is not one of them. There are three points with what I perceive to be fundamentally wrong with Denève’s performances: 1. lack of visceral excitement and spontaneity, 2. sluggish tempi and 3. no general conception of the music other than to simply ‘play the notes’. Just because you have a French conductor up on the podium conducting a French composer’s music doesn’t mean it’s authoritative or somehow superior and I think this is what some of the reviews I’ve read concerning these recordings fail to address.

For some truly exciting Roussel performances, I say get the newly issued “Roussel Edition” on Erato, which contains many classic performances from Munch to Cluytens to Martinon, but also contains his oft-ignored chamber music, mélodies, solo piano works and his opera, “Padmâvatî”.

Ah yes, I could see your points, but I frankly hear other things and I don't care if they're more authentic or not, or more vintage recordings.

Denève is a great set to cherish.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #270 on: November 04, 2021, 09:27:51 PM »
Ah yes, I could see your points, but I frankly hear other things and I don't care if they're more authentic or not, or more vintage recordings.

Denève is a great set to cherish.

As long as you feel something from the performances, this is all that matters. Of the more modern sets, I like Janowski on RCA and Eschenbach on Ondine, but it's been years since I've given a proper listen to the Eschenbach, but I remember enjoying his cycle.
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Re: Albert Roussel - A Sadly Neglected French Composer.
« Reply #271 on: November 05, 2021, 10:11:10 AM »
Since there was discussion about influences, I'd just like to point out two William Walton pieces that absolutely show the influence of Roussel - the Partita for orchestra and the slow movement of the Second Symphony (especially at the climax).