Sunday, August 09, 2009

Roussel, the French underdog

With local contemporary competition of the magnitude of Debussy and Ravel, it is no wonder that Albert Roussel (1869-1937) has not become a household name. However, he was a great composer who deserves far more attention than he is getting, with a style that ranged from impressionism to neo-classicism. In particular his third and fourth symphonies and the ballet Bacchus et Ariane deserve to become staples in the classical repertoir. This Naxos disc serves as an excellent introduction. The third symphony (opus 42) composed in 1930 is a 25 minutes neo-classical masterpiece, rich in melodies and originality in orchestration, in particular the percussion. The contemporary ballet score Bacchus et Ariane (Bacchus and Ariadne), his opus 43, is perhaps his most performed work, albeit in the suites Roussel derived from the score. Here we have the full score, again in neo-classical style, and it is well worth listening to. Excellent performances throughout by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Stephane Deneve, and well recorded. A bargain.