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ROUSSEL, A.: Festin de l'araignee (Le) / Padmavati Suites Nos. 1 and 2 (Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Deneve)

Naxos 8.572243

   Fanfare, July 2012
   Audiophilia, June 2012
   Audiophile Audition, June 2012
   San Francisco Chronicle, June 2012
   American Record Guide, May 2012
   MusicWeb International, April 2012
   MusicWeb International, April 2012
   San Francisco Classical Voice, March 2012
   Classical Music Sentinel, March 2012
   PS Tracks, March 2012
   Otago Daily Times, March 2012
   Gramophone, March 2012, February 2012, February 2012, February 2012
   BBC Music Magazine, February 2012
   International Record Review, February 2012, February 2012
   The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, January 2012
   David's Review Corner, January 2012

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Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, July 2012

Stéphane Denève clearly loves the music of his compatriot and appreciates [Roussel’s] significance to 20th-century French music…The Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s mastery of the Impressionist idiom—which Roussel largely employs here—makes one regret that it has not been asked to record more before now.

Le Festin de l’araignée…is one of three great ballet scores produced by Roussel during the relatively short 34 years of his mature compositional career…[The piece is] appreciated as an enchantingly ingenuous story of guileful spiders, industrious ants, warlike mantises, clever fruit worms, and a fragile and doomed mayfly.

It is the inclusion of the two suites from the rarely performed opera-ballet Padmâvatî that takes this release from highly desirable to absolutely essential for Roussel collectors. One can hear the composer moving beyond his earlier models in this sensuously Eastern-tinged work, while still retaining all the delicacy and charm of [Roussel’s] previous pieces. This hauntingly sensual music, with its harmonic richness, would eventually give way to something more like neoclassicism, but it is none the less enjoyable for being transitional. The sound is first-rate. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Andy Fawcett
Audiophilia, June 2012

While Roussel was well-versed in the impressionism of his contemporaries, the vivid programme music of ‘The Spider’s Banquet’ seems grounded in an older classical tradition…‘Padmâvati’, on the other hand, evokes the siege of the ancient Indian city of Chittor by the Moghuls and its wild dynamics, rhythmic complexity and references to Indian music place stiff demands on the orchestra—all of which are handled with considerable aplomb! I really didn’t know what to expect from this disc but thoroughly enjoyed it, so there’s every chance that you will too. For a recording of this quality—dynamic and spatially vivid, with good presence—at Naxos’ budget price, well worth a punt. © 2012 Audiophilia Read complete review

John Sunier
Audiophile Audition, June 2012

…The Spider’s Banquet is a ballet-pantomime which depicts insect life and death in the garden. The spider’s dance is great fun, and the short music for the entrance of two praying Mantises is rowdy and warlike. Sonics are excellent for CD. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Joshua Kosman
San Francisco Chronicle, June 2012

Conductor Stéphane Denève and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conclude their splendid five-disc cycle of Albert Roussel’s orchestral music with compelling performances of two of the composer’s stage works—one well-known and the other a wonderful hidden treasure. As usual with stage works, listening to the entire score on disc does leave you feeling that something is missing, but Denève’s resourceful conducting—with a keen ear for balances and firm yet fluid rhythmic control—helps compensate. The surprise gem, though, is “Padmavati,” an “opera-ballet” based on an Indian legend, with music that sparkles and sways in an irresistible stream of inspiration. © 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Read complete review

Roger Hecht
American Record Guide, May 2012

Scored for a small orchestra, the music is mostly delicate, with several magical dances. It is great to have the full score if you like French impressionism: it is 30-plus minutes of exactly that, with Ravel on center stage and Debussy lurking approvingly in the wings.

This conclusion…of Stephane Deneve’s survey of Roussel is worthy of the excellent entries that have gone before. The performance is full of life, well paced, and plays up the symphonic aspects of the work with breadth and warmth.

Padmavati is flavored with Indian modes and an Arab melody, but, as Roussel made clear, no “exotic instruments”. Its size made it difficult to stage. The premiere was well received, but there haven’t been many performances since. Roussel was aware of the problem and prepared the suite, whose two parts reflects the opera’s two acts. This is the only recording I’m aware of, and it captures the splendor and pageantry very well. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

Leslie Wright
MusicWeb International, April 2012

This would seem to be the final recording in Denève’s Roussel series and it maintains the high standards set in the earlier volumes.

I compared Denève’s recording with one by the BBC Philharmonic under Yan Pascal Tortelier on Chandos CHAN9494 (that also includes Bacchus et Ariane) and found the contrasting interpretations rather enlightening. Whereas Tortelier is softer focused and blended—indeed more “impressionistic”—Denève paints his Spider’s Banquet in bolder and brighter colors that look forward to Roussel’s later period. Both are convincing, but I must say I have gained a greater appreciation of the score from Denève. The ballet now seems to me to be every bit as good as Bacchus et Ariane. The various entomological dances and scenes are characterized very well by the whole orchestra, but special praise is due the to woodwinds—above all the wonderful flute playing.

Accompanying the ballet is a rarity: two suites Roussel compiled from his opera-ballet, Padmâvatî, music that was inspired by the composer’s visit to India. The suites are quite colorful and contain more than a little Eastern exoticism, though the music is pure Roussel through and through. Again the superb flute deserves a mention here. I don’t think, based on the orchestral excerpts here, however, that the composer’s inspiration was at the same high level as in the two ballets or the later symphonies. It is certainly pleasant enough, but with the disc’s rather short timing some vocal selections from the score might have enhanced its appeal. Nonetheless, for anyone collecting the series this recording of The Spider’s Feast alone would make it a worthy acquisition. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, April 2012

When Naxos issued Stéphane Denève’s recordings of Albert Roussel’s symphonies as a 4 CD box set, I snapped it up—having never heard a note of Roussel—and devoured it with gluttonous delight…the fact that Naxos is offering us one more (alas, final!) volume in its Roussel series is a terrific treat.

the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, under Stéphane Denève, have maintained an amazingly high standard of play 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?!” © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

David Bratman
San Francisco Classical Voice, March 2012

ROUSSEL, A.: Festin de l'araignee (Le) / Padmavati Suites Nos. 1 and 2 (Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Deneve) 8.572243
ROUSSEL, A.: Symphony No. 4 / Rapsodie Flamande / Petite Suite / Sinfonietta (Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Deneve) 8.572135

Le Festin de l’araignée (The spider’s banquet, or The spider’s feast) is a ballet written in 1912 depicting the titular spider and its various insect prey. On this recording, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by its music director, Stéphane Denève, performs the complete half-hour ballet, rather than the 15-minute suite more commonly heard. The garden setting is depicted with lush, picturesque scenery in rich Impressionist harmony. Scene-setting alternates with dances or marches depicting the insects. The ants bustle on with good humor, the butterfly flutters in a manner reminiscent of Respighi’s Birds, and the mayfly dances in a lively triple time that’s the only traditionally balletic moment in the piece. A slightly lurid moment arrives as the spider devours the butterfly, and there’s harmonically ornate, dark funeral music for the mayfly.

Tracking is tightly connected to the individual scenes—there are 12 tracks for this one work alone—allowing the listener to follow the scenario with fair confidence. The music, apart from a couple of brief breaks, is continuous.

The scoring is always colorful and individual, with prominent parts for the winds and harp. The strings get a chance to vanish off the top of a high rising figure, and emit a few other ghostly effects, as well. Overall, the sound of this ballet is a combination of a great deal of Ravel’s sensuous Daphnis et Chloé—which was completed the same year—and, thanks to the prominent oboe part, more than a touch of his Tombeau de Couperin in its perky orchestral version.

Padmâvatî…consists of two brief suites of orchestral music…The suites, each of which is continuous though divided into movements, wash between slow atmospheric music, richly orchestrated without the intense sensuousness of The Spider’s Banquet, and succinct uprisings of emotional climax. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra performs all this with sober brevity.

Less vehement and more introspective than the better-known Third, his Fourth Symphony mixes dark lyricism with carefree cheerfulness, particularly in the chipper, even joyous finale.

On the CD, the Symphony is followed by Flemish Rhapsody, employing several Renaissance-era popular tunes. The remaining three works…show that [Roussel’s] true additional orchestral talent after ballets and symphonies was as a miniaturist.

Throughout both recordings, the Royal Scots are consistently on the mark in skill of execution and dedication to the spirit of the music….it’s one of Naxos’ most winning pairings of artists and repertoire. © 2012 San Francisco Classical Voice Read complete review

Jean-Yves Duperron
Classical Music Sentinel, March 2012

The evocative opening pages in particular, imprinted with Roussel’s flair for imagery, immediately set the scene of a halcyonic morning in a beautiful garden, ensued by the daily struggles for survival of various insects, while the closing moments return to the idyllic and peaceful nature of the garden from the start of the work. This is more than likely the score that has kept Roussel’s name active within the musical vernacular.

…this version of his most famous ballet is like the icing on the cake. The interpretation is fresh, the playing commited, and the recorded sound detailed and natural. If you are not familiar with the music of Albert Roussel, start here. If you already know and appreciate his symphonies, then this wonderful ballet should be a piece of cake. Pun intended! © 2012 Classical Music Sentinel Read complete review

Lawrence Schenbeck
PS Tracks, March 2012

…conductor Stéphane Denève has come on board. With the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, he has just released the final volume in a survey of Roussel’s orchestral music for Naxos…This one includes an early ballet, Le festin de l’araignée…and two suites from a slightly later work, the opera-ballet Padmâvatî. The first is impressionistic, full of rather straightforward imagery, while the second incorporates aspects of Indian music that Roussel encountered in his travels. The “Dance of the Spider,” in which the eponymous hero(ine) of the insect ballet contemplates her prey before consuming it, gives you an idea of Roussel’s blend of evocative power and classic French restraint. © 2012 PS Tracks Read complete review

Geoff Adams
Otago Daily Times, March 2012

the CD confirms the composer as a great impressionist of the French school, delicately weaving melodies and harmony.

The orchestra under Stephane Deneve performs these stage works in its Naxos series of Roussel discs. It charms with the vibrancy of a light-hearted insect world and more exotic sounds of the quasi-oriental opera…

Highlights: flamboyant entomological cocktail, plus exotic-tinged passions. © 2012 Otago Daily Times Read complete review

Geoffrey Norris
Gramophone, March 2012

Roussel’s balletic exposé of seething life in the insect world receives a vibrant performance from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Stéphane Denève… The music, which is couched in Roussel’s own brand of impressionism, is radiantly orchestrated and, through its descriptive powers, holds its own without the visual elements that a staged performance would provide. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

James Manheim, February 2012

Denève and the Naxos engineering team, working in Henry Wood Hall in Glasgow, keep the textures open and clear, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra delivering precise playing throughout. Le festin de l’araignée…deserves to be better known, and this strong performance will bring that goal closer. © 2012 Read complete review, February 2012

…played by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under the knowing and sensitive Stéphane Denève. Le festin de l’araignée is a series of miniatures, each carefully constructed and each distinctive. The colors of the orchestra are beautifully displayed here. As for Padmȃvatî, it incorporates elements of Indian music into Roussel’s typically haunting use of carefully chosen orchestral sections… Again, Denève brings out the coloristic effects while shaping the music well and keeping it moving smartly ahead, producing a highly effective reading of a work that never achieved significant popularity but that, in the context of this excellent overview of Roussel’s orchestral music, fits the composer’s oeuvre well and certainly deserves more-frequent performance. © 2012 Read complete review

David Hurwitz, February 2012

This final installment provides a worthy and memorable conclusion to the series. In the first place, the two suites from Roussel’s magnificent opera-ballet Pâdmavatî are all but unknown, either in concert or on disc. They are wonderful, not least because the obligatory touches of Eastern exoticism are fully integrated into Roussel’s personal idiom. All of his music, even the lightest or the most purely tactile and voluptuous, has substance.

Denève has an unerring feel for Roussel’s idiom, for that combination of rhythmic drive, precision of accent, and elegant phrasing that somehow seems both personal to this composer as well as quintessentially French. Beyond that, he gets excellent, truly refined playing from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and he’s expertly recorded. Essential. © 2012 Read complete review

Christopher Dingle
BBC Music Magazine, February 2012

Another alluring instalment in Stéphane Denève’s survey of Roussel’s orchestral works with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra…The flute solos are especially beguiling, while the orchestra marvellously evokes the passions of battle, lust and love in the oppressive heat [Padmâvatî]. © 2012 BBC Music Magazine

Colin Anderson
International Record Review, February 2012

This very welcome release completes Stéphane Denève’s five-CD Roussel cycle for Naxos. It’s good to have a complete recording of The Spider’s Banquet (1912), music of atmosphere and suggestion, exquisitely composed, often on threads of sound and in which every detail is lucid and—pun intended—a vital part of the web. Denève and his Royal Scottish National players give a sensitive and scintillating account of this very attractive score, a ballet-pantomime describing insect life, their relationships mirroring human existence and with no lack of drama and poignancy. Roussel is masterly at suggesting an entomological world, creating images in the mind of anyone who might fancy choreographing and designing costumes and decor for a production of the ballet. Certainly this finely judged, beautifully played performance—blessed with clear and immediate sound—is the bee’s knees…which demonstrates much painstaking work on the musicians’ part to bring expressive meaning and clarity of scoring to such charming, imaginative and skilled music…This is a first-class issue. © 2012 International Record Review

Robert Benson, February 2012

Denève and the Scottish Orchestra play very well, and the sound is excellent. © 2012 Read complete review

The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, January 2012

both works are performed with an expert touch and deep feel for impressionistic musical fare. The recorded sound is simply stunning! © 2012 The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2012

As I number among Albert Roussel’s fervent admirers, it is exasperating that his music remains obstinately on the fringe of the world’s standard repertoire. The present disc couples two of his most colourful ballet scores, Le Festin de l’araignee (The Spider’s Banquet), which pictures insect life in the garden, where all is not innocent and charming. Roussel’s score is wonderfully imaginative with a keen awareness of orchestral sounds. In the concert hall it became known in the form of a suite, but is here performed in its full ballet format, the work lasting over half an hour. Roussel did not come to music until he had served some years in the French Navy and it was during that time that he first saw and was fascinated by the Orient. That was the inspiration, fuelled by the medieval poem, Padmani, for his opera-ballet, Padmavati, a great success on its appearance at the Paris Opera, though its need for elaborate and costly staging proving a barrier to its frequent performance. Roussel decided to ‘rescue’ part of the work in two orchestral suites included on this release. Not as graphically pictured as the previous work, it is clothed in more subtle terms, and in those terms is a most engaging score. The playing is superbly detailed in both pieces, the solo passages showing players of real quality, and, as in his previous Roussel recordings, Stéphane Denève, shows himself as an ideal advocate. Sadly he will move on from Scotland next year, but I hope Naxos will continue his French music recordings as they are outstanding. The engineering is first rate. Highly commended.

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