Portrait
Albert Roussel

Albert (Charles Paul Marie) Roussel was an outstanding French composer and teacher. Orphaned as a child, he was educated by his grandfather, mayor of his native town, and after the grandfather's death, by his aunt. He studied academic subjects at the College Stanislas in Paris and music with the organist Stoltz; then studied mathematics in preparation for entering the Naval Academy; at the age of 18, he began his training in the navy; from 1889 to August 1890 he was a member of the crew of the frigate Iphigénie, sailing to Indochina. This voyage was of great importance to Roussel, since it opened for him a world of oriental culture and art, which became one of the chief sources of his musical inspiration. He later sailed on the cruiser Devastation; received a leave of absence for reasons of health, and spent some time in Tunis; was then stationed in Cherbourg, and began to compose there. In 1893 he was sent once more to Indochina.  

Albert Roussel resigned from the navy in 1894 and went to Paris, where he began to study music seriously with Eugène Gigout. In 1898 he entered the Schola Cantorum in Paris as a pupil of Vincent d'Indy; continued this study until 1907, when he was already 38 years old, but at the same time he was entrusted with a class in counterpoint, which he conducted at the Schola Cantorum from 1902 to 1914; among his students were Satie, Golestan, Le Flem, Roland-Manuel, Lioncourt, and the young Edgard Varèse. In 1909 Roussel and his wife, Blanche Preisach-Roussel, undertook a voyage to India, where he became acquainted with the legend of the queen Padmavati, which he selected as a subject for his famous opera-ballet. His choral symphony Les Evocations was also inspired by this tour.  

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Albert Roussel applied for active service in the navy but was rejected, and volunteered as an ambulance driver. After the Armistice of 1918, he settled in Normandy and devoted himself to composition. In the autumn of 1930 he visited the USA. Another student of Roussel's was Bohuslav Martinu (after the war and his own apprenticeship, and starting in 1923). Roussel died in the town of Royan, (Charente-Maritime department), in western France, in 1937, the same year that his countrymen Maurice Ravel and Gabriel Pierné died.

Albert Roussel began his work under the influence of French Impressionism, with its dependence on exotic moods and poetic association. He eventually found a personal style which was more formal in design, with a strong rhythmic drive, and with a more distinct liking for functional tonality than is evident in the work of his more famous contemporaries (for instance Debussy, Ravel, Satie, and Igor Stravinsky). The sense of formal design asserted itself in his symphonic works; his Suite (1926) signalizes a transition toward neo-Classicism; the thematic development is vigorous, and the rhythms are clearly delineated, despite some asymmetrical progressions; the orchestration, too, is in the Classical tradition. Roussel possessed a keen sense of the theater; he was capable of fine characterization of exotic or mythological subjects, but also knew how to depict humorous sitUations in lighter works.  

Albert Roussel's training at the Schola Cantorum, with its emphasis on rigorous academic models such as Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and J.S. Bach, left its mark on his mature style, which is characterized by contrapuntal textures. In comparison with the subtle and nuanced style of other French composers like Gabriel Fauré or Claude Debussy, Roussel's orchestration is rather heavy. While the stylistic and orchestral aesthetic of so-called "French" music was one which Roussel did not fully share, it is nevertheless true that Roussel was never a mere copyist of Teutonic models. Certainly, in contrast with the sound of the German romantic orchestral tradition (such as Anton Bruckner or Gustav Mahler), Roussel's manner could hardly be called heavy at all.  

Roussel was also interested in jazz, and wrote a piano-vocal composition entitled Jazz dans la nuit, similar in its inspiration to other jazz-inspired works such as "Blues" second movement of Maurice Ravel's Violin Sonata, or Darius Milhaud's La Création du Monde).  Roussel's most important works are the ballets Le festin de l'araignée, Bacchus et Ariane, and Aeneas and the four symphonies (of which the Third, in G minor, and the Fourth, in A major, are highly regarded and epitomize his mature neoclassical style). His other works include numerous ballets, orchestral suites, a piano concerto, a concertino for cello and orchestra, a psalm setting for chorus and orchestra, incidental music for the theatre, and much chamber music, solo piano music and songs.

www.bach-cantatas.com

Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
1902 Piano Trio Opus 2 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
1 Modere, sans lenteur - Tres anime
2 Lent
3 Tres lent - Vif et gaiement

Jet Röling - Piano

1903 Résurrection, symphonic prelude for orchestra, Opus 4 4.00 stars 4 CD
Comments:
Royal Scottish National Orchestra cond. Stéphane Denève
1906 Divertimento Opus 6 for Wind Quintet and Piano 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
1 Anime
2 Lent
3 Anime

Jet Röling - Piano
Instumentalists: Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn and Bassoon

1906 Symphony No.1 in D ('Le poème de la forét'), Opus 7 4.00 out of 5 stars 4 CD
Comments:
Royal Scottish National Orchestra cond. Stéphane Denève
1906 Symphony No.1 in D ('Le poème de la forét'), Opus 7 4.00 out of 5 stars 2 CD
Comments:
Orchestre National de France cond. Charles Dutoit
1907-1908 Sonata No 1 for Piano and Violin Opus 11 4.00 out of 5 stars 3 CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
1 Lent - Tres anime - Lent
2 Assez anime - Tres modere - tres anime
3 Tres lent - Vif et gaiement

Jet Röling - Piano
Jean-jacques Kantorow - Violin

1908 Le Marchand de sable qui passe, incidental music, Opus 13 4.00 stars 4 CD
Comments:
Royal Scottish National Orchestra cond. Stéphane Denève
1909-1910 Suite pour piano opus 14 4.00 out of 5 stars LP
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
Prélude
Sicilienne
Bourrée
Ronde

Françoise Petit - Piano

1912 Sonatine opus 16 4.00 out of 5 stars LP
Albert Roussel - Sonatine Comments:
Modéré
Tres Lent

Françoise Petit - Piano

1912 Le festin d'Araignée (Suite de ballet) Opus 17 4.050 out of 5 stars LP
Albert Roussel - Le festin d'Araignée [Suite de ballet] Comments:
Roussel is a true magician.
With traditional means he achieves fresh and very interesting music.
This ballet is one of his great works.
Again Supraphon made a wonderful production.

Prague Symphony Orchestra cond. Vaslav Smetacek
1912 Le festin d'Araignée (Suite de ballet) Opus 17 4.050 out of 5 stars 2 CD
Comments:
Orchestre National de l'ORTF cond. Jean Martinon
1914-1918 Padmavati 4.050 out of 5 stars 2CD
Albert Roussel - Le festin d'Araignée [Suite de ballet] Comments:
Complete Opera

Synopsis:

Chitoor, a city in 13th Century India, is ruled by the noble and just Prince Ratan-Sen, who is married to the beautiful Padmavati. Disaster looms on the horizon of their peaceful life, however, because the Mogul ruler of Delhi, Alauddin, is approaching Chitoor with an army.

Act I
The opera opens with Alauddin and his envoys coming to Ratan-Sen's court to discuss peace -- or war. After dances of welcome by the Hindu palace dancers, Alauddin asks to see Padmavati, of whose beauty he has heard. When Ratan-Sen bids his wife to lower her veil, Alauddin seems overcome by her beauty and makes an excuse to leave.

Then Alauddin sends an ultimatum to Ratan-Sen: hand over the beautiful Padmavati, or the city of Chitoor will be sacked. Ratan-Sen refuses. The people of Chitoor lynch Alauddin's cruel messenger, who dies prophesying death for Ratan-Sen and Padmavati and the destruction of Chitoor.

In the final scene of the act, with calls to arms echoing in the distance, Padmavati sings a lament that she should, innocently, be the cause of disaster and prays that she die rather than be separated from Ratan-Sen.

Act II
In the Temple of the god Shiva, Padmavati awaits the return of her husband, who is leading his troops in a desperate sortie against the Moguls. The priests of Shiva tell her that a supreme sacrifice at dawn is necessary to save Chitoor, and that there must be more than one victim.

Ratan-Sen returns, wounded. His army has been routed; a truce is in place until dawn, the deadline to hand over Padmavati. He pictures the horrors that will befall the people of Chitoor.

And then Padmavati stabs her beloved husband, the first sacrificial victim, knowing that tradition dictates she commit suttee, or suicide on her husband's funeral pyre. The preparations for her sacrificial death are a solemn ritual that Padmavati handles with dignity and honor. As she is carried, with a final song of terror, to her immolation, Alauddin bursts through the Temple door too late.

Solists
Toulouse Capitole Orchestra cond. Michel Plasson

1919 Impromptu pour harpe solo opus 21 4.00 out of 5 stars LP
Albert Roussel - Impromptu Comments:
Marie-Claire Jamet - Harp
1919 Impromptu pour harpe solo opus 21 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
Erika Waardenburg - Harp
1920 Pour une fête de printemps opus 22 4.00 out of 5 stars LP
2 CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
Orchestre de L'ORTF cond. Jean Martinon
1920 Pour une fête de printemps opus 22 4.00 stars 4 CD
Comments:
Royal Scottish National Orchestra cond. Stéphane Denève
1919-1921 Symphony No 2 Opus 23 4.00 out of 5 stars LP
Albert Roussel - Symphony No 2 Comments:
Orchestre de L'ORTF cond. Jean Martinon
1919-1921 Symphony No 2 Opus 23 4.00 stars 4 CD
Comments:
Royal Scottish National Orchestra cond. Stéphane Denève
1919-1921 Symphony No.2 Opus 23 4.00 out of 5 stars 2 CD
Comments:
Orchestre National de France cond. Charles Dutoit
1924 Deux poemes de Rosard Opus 26 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
For Flute and Soprano

1 Rossignol, mom mignon
2 Ciel, aer et vens

Paul Verhey - Flute
Irene Maessen -Soprano

1924 Deux poemes de Rosard Opus 26 4.00 out of 5 stars LP
Comments:
For Choir

1 Rossignol, mom mignon
2 Ciel, aer et vens

Gregg Smith Singers cond. Gregg Smith

1924 Joueurs de Flute Opus 27 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
For Flute and Piano

1 Pan
2 Tityre
3 Krishna
4 M. de la Pejaudie

Paul Verhey - Flute
jet Röling - Piano

1924 Sonata No 2 for Piano and Violin Opus 28 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:

1 Allegro con moto
2 Andante
3 Presto

Jean-Jacques Kantorow - Piano
Jet Röling - Piano

1924 Segovia Opus 29 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:

For Guitar

Jan Goudswaard - Guitaro

1925 Sérénade opus 30 4.00 out of 5 stars LP
Albert Roussel - Serenade Comments:
Quintette Marie-Claire Jamet
1925 Sérénade opus 30 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
Members of the Schoenberg Quintet
1925 Duo for Bassoon and Double Bass 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
Jos de Lande - Bassoon
Jet Röling - Piano
1926 Suite en fa opus 33 4.50 out of 5 stars LP
Albert Roussel - Suite en fa Comments:
How to get a whole symphony orchestra swinging...
Lamoureux Orchestre cond. Charles Munch
1926 Suite en fa opus 33 4.50 out of 5 stars 4 CD
Comments:
Royal Scottish National Orchestra cond. Stéphane Denève
1926 Suite en fa opus 33 4.050 out of 5 stars 2 CD
Comments:
Orchestre National de l'ORTF cond. Jean Martinon
1927 Sarabande 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Albert Roussel - Suite en fa Comments:
Part of L'Eventail de Jeanne (Ballet)

Philharmonia Orchestra cond. Geoffrey Simon.

1927 Concerto for Small Orchestra, Opus 34 4.00 stars 4 CD
Comments:
Royal Scottish National Orchestra cond. Stéphane Denève
1927-1928 Aria No 2 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
For Oboe and Piano
Arrangement by Arthur Hoeree

Hans Roerade - Oboe
Jet Röling - Piano

1929 Trio opus 40 4.00 out of 5 stars LP
Albert Roussel - Trio Comments:
Christian Lardé - Flute
Colette Lequien - Viola
Pierre Degenne - Cello
1929 Petite suite, for orchestra, Opus 39 4.00 stars 4 CD
Comments:
Royal Scottish National Orchestra cond. Stéphane Denève
1929 Trio opus 40 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
Paul Verhey - Flute
Hent Guittart - Viola
Johan Stegenga - Cello
1929 Prelude & Fughetta for Organ Opus 41 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Arturo Sacchetti - Organ
1929-1930 Symphony No 3 opus 42 4.50 out of 5 stars LP
Albert Roussel - Symphony 3 -4 Comments:
Lamoureux Orchestre cond. Charles Munch
Albert Roussel - Symphony 3 -4 Comments:
Lamoureux Orchestre cond. Charles Munch

Same recording as above, remastered for CD

1929-1930 Symphony No 3 opus 42 4.00 stars CD
Comments:
New York Philharmonic cond. Leonard Bernstein
1929-1930 Symphony No 3 opus 42 4.00 stars 4 CD
Comments:
Royal Scottish National Orchestra cond. Stéphane Denève
1929-1930 Symphony No.3 Opus 42 4.00 out of 5 stars 2 CD
Comments:
Orchestre National de France cond. Charles Dutoit
1930 Bacchus et Ariane opus 43 4.50 out of 5 stars LP
Albert Roussel - Bacchus et Ariane Comments:
Complete Ballet

Orchestre de L'ORTF cond. Jean Martinon

1930 Bacchus et Ariane opus 43 4.050 out of 5 stars 2 CD
Comments:
Orchestre de Paris cond. Charles Dutoit
1931-1932 String Quartet Opus 45 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
Schoenberg Quartet
1931-1932 String Quartet Opus 45 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Via Nova Quartet
1933 Trois Pièces opus 49 4.00 out of 5 stars LP
Albert Roussel - Trois Pièces Comments:
Prélude
Sicilienne
Bourrée
Ronde

Françoise Petit - Piano

1933 Bacchus et Ariane No 1 Suite 4.00 stars 4 CD
Comments:
Royal Scottish National Orchestra cond. Stéphane Denève
1934 Bacchus et Ariane No 2 Suite 4.00 stars 4 CD
Comments:
Royal Scottish National Orchestra cond. Stéphane Denève
1934 Bacchus et Ariane No 2 Suite 4.00 stars CD
Comments:
Lamoureux Orchestra cond. Igor Markevitch
1934 Andante and Scherzo Opus 51 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
For Flute and Piano

Paul Verhey - Flute
Jet Röling - Piano

1934 Sinfonietta opus 52 4.00 out of 5 stars LP
Albert Roussel - Sinfonietta Comments:
Solists from Zagreb cond. Antonio Janigro
1934 Sinfonietta opus 52 4.00 stars 4 CD
Comments:
Royal Scottish National Orchestra cond. Stéphane Denève
1934 Sinfonietta opus 52 4.050 out of 5 stars 2 CD
Comments:
Orchestre de Chambre J-F Paillard cond. Jean-Francois Paillard
1934 Pipe 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
For Picolo (or flageolet) and Piano

Paul Verhey - Piccolo
Jet Röling - Piano

1934 Symphony No 4 opus 53 4.50 out of 5 stars LP
Albert Roussel - Symphony No 3 -4 Comments:
Lamoureux Orchestre cond. Charles Munch
Albert Roussel - Symphony 3 -4 Comments:
Lamoureux Orchestre cond. Charles Munch

Same recording as above, remastered for CD

1934 Symphony No 4 opus 53 4.00 stars 4 CD
Comments:
Royal Scottish National Orchestra cond. Stéphane Denève
1934 Symphony No.4 Opus 53 4.00 out of 5 stars 2 CD
Comments:
Orchestre National de France cond. Charles Dutoit
1935 Aeneas Ballet opus 54 4.050 out of 5 stars 2 CD
Comments:
Orchestre National de l'ORTF cond. Jean Martinon
1936 Rapsodie flamande, symphonic poem, Opus 56 4.00 stars 4 CD
Comments:
Royal Scottish National Orchestra cond. Stéphane Denève
1937 String Trio Opus 58 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:

Members of the Schoenberg Quartet

1937 Music from Elpenor, Poeme Radiophonique Opus 59 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
For Flute and String Quartet

Paul Verhey - Flute
Schoenberg Quartet

1937 Andante from an unfinished Wind Trio 4.00 out of 5 stars 3CD
Albert Roussel - Suite pour Piano Comments:
For Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon

Hans Roerade - Oboe
Frank van den Brink - Clarinet
Jos de Lange - Bassoon