Albert Roussel (1869–1937) forged a unique musical identity in his music and remains one of the most intriguing and influential of French composers. A student of Vincent d'Indy, he went on to teach a generation of noted composers, including Eric Satie, Edgard Varèse and Bohuslav Martinů. He enjoyed popularity outside of his native France, notably in the United States where he made a triumphal visit in 1930. Further to the five volumes of Roussel's orchestral works, which received enormous critical acclaim, Naxos is recording Roussel's piano works in three volumes. This month sees the release of Volume 2.
Though he is best known for his orchestral works, Albert Roussel wrote an important body of piano music. This second of three volumes of the complete piano works includes the composer’s own reduction of his earliest orchestral work, Résurrection, a response to the emotions engendered by Tolstoy’s last novel from which this ‘prelude’ takes its inspiration. Love of nature inspires the rhythmically inventive three Rustiques the second movement of which, Promenade sentimentale en forêt, is notable for its birdsong and rich polyphony. Roussel’s largest-scaled piano work is the Suite in Fsharp minor, richly imbued with driving energy, exciting themes and fresh effects.
Listen to an extract from Suite in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 14:
“Following five issues of Roussel’s orchestral music, Naxos now gives us the first of a three-volume set of the piano music…Roussel was championed by two great French pianists, Robert Casadesus ... and Alfred Cortot ... but even they could hardly have made a finer case for the composer than Jean-Pierre Armengaud, whose rich experience is reflected in well-recorded performances of outstanding vitality and expertise.”
“Armengaud is very well recorded, with an excellent piano sound, highly-accomplished playing and idiomatic sense of style. It scores significantly as far as track selection and ordering go, complemented by comprehensive and informative sleeve-notes. As a ‘taster’ it’s ideal, and is a self-contained insight into Roussel’s pianism.”
– MusicWeb International
Listen to an extract from 3 Pieces, Op. 49:
No. 1. Allegro con brio
About the Artist
For several decades Jean-Pierre Armengaud has pursued a particularly rich international career as a pianist and concert-performer, notable for the extent of his repertoire (from Bach to Boulez), by the number of countries to which he has been invited (more than forty) and the importance of his recordings. Armengaud is today acknowledged as one of the great interpreters of French music from Rameau to Henri Dutilleux. Both a musicologist and a writer, Jean-Pierre Armengaud has been responsible for music on Radio France and is a distinguished scholar and teacher in universities and in master-classes in major Conservatoires.
“...the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, under Stéphane Denève, have maintained an amazingly high standard of playing throughout the series, with stunning brass playing and some of the best sound Naxos has ever recorded. In fact, this is one of the best series Naxos has ever released…if you’ve been collecting this series, you will need this CD…my advice isn’t to buy this album as a starter. My advice is to buy all five in one go. You’ll understand when you suddenly want to shout: “Where has this composer been all my life?!”
– MusicWeb International
“...again Denève assumes speeds that fit the music like a glove. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra play with élan throughout, relishing the music. It would be no surprise if they were granted the freedom of Paris for this. Highly recommended.”
“The opening of the Second Suite has that same feeling of deep nostalgia as does the slow movement of the symphony, and in the final Bacchanal Denève whips up an orchestral fury the likes of which we haven't heard in this piece since Munch. What makes the performance so special is that all of this excitement never compromises precision of execution, or that special sparkle and lightness of touch that we have come to regard as quintessentially French. This team looks set to become a major musical force, and a genuine star of the Naxos catalog. Keep it coming, please!”
“The fourth instalment of Stephane Denève’s Roussel cycle is, if anything, even better than its predecessors. The music’s idiom, at once tight reined and richly inventive, brims with opportunities for the woodwind and brass section principals which the RSNO’s classy line-up takes superbly.”
– Classic FM ★★★★
“Naxos has thoughtfully boxed up Stéphane Denève’s complete Roussel symphony cycle, thus providing an excellent excuse (once again) to give it the strongest possible recommendation and to urge you to snap it up without delay.”