Roussel: Symphony No. 2; Bacchus et Ariane

Roussel: Symphony No. 2; Bacchus et Ariane

by Christoph Eschenbach
     
 

The music of naval officer turned composer Albert Roussel has undergone a renaissance: although first eclipsed by the work of his contemporaries Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky, Roussel's hidden jewels have recently begun to attract attention. Though a definitive Frenchman, his expertly craftedSee more details below

Overview

The music of naval officer turned composer Albert Roussel has undergone a renaissance: although first eclipsed by the work of his contemporaries Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky, Roussel's hidden jewels have recently begun to attract attention. Though a definitive Frenchman, his expertly crafted music is French only in flair: his compositional style evokes more sweeping emotions, darkness, depth, and Germanic power than his Parisian counterparts. These elements, in combination with his militaristic rhythmic vigor, enable his works to encompass a broad spectrum of subject matter from pastoral scenes of nature to dark, lonely tales of Greek mythology. Roussel's ballet "Bacchus et Ariane" includes a gripping blend of both. The composer extracted the best of his ballet music into two suites, both of which are featured on this disc. Rooted in classical tradition, the story is focused around the desertion and subsequent romance of Ariadne with Bacchus (more often referred to as Dionysus), the Greek God of wine. Intellectually stimulating and emotionally stirring, Christoph Eschenbach and the Paris Orchestra navigate Roussel's portrayal of this lonely mythical tale with great beauty and often gut-wrenching emotion. The "First Suite," although somewhat less popular and recorded than its twin, features outstanding performances in its numerous chamber music-like passages by a number of the Paris Orchestra musicians. The "Suite No. 2," often featured alone on recordings, begins as quietly as the first starts and contains much of the essence of the plot (and the best music): the twirling woodwind figurations in Bacchus' dance are played with flashy virtuosity, and the excitement Eschenbach creates leading into the dance of Ariadne and Bacchus together is palpable. Roussel is perhaps better known for his "Symphony No. 3," one of the famous 50th anniversary Boston Symphony Orchestra commissions of conductor Sergey Koussevitsky. The "Second Symphony," more lyrical than "Bacchus," is as intensely musical as it is varied. Eschenbach and his Paris Orchestra play with a stark sense of commitment and involvement with this work, creating an ending that is truly cathartic. The works' three movements are drawn together well, creating a beautiful arch that gives the music a vivid sense of definition. Historically, Ondine has not always had the best reputation, having on occasion released material that could only be described as less-than-stellar (the Shostakovich "Fifth" with James DePreist immediately comes to mind). Here, though, Ondine has contributed another fine release. The sound on this disc is deep, warm, and focused. Classy packaging and a haunting cover image seal the deal -- there's simply nothing not to like: this recording is highly recommended as an entry point to the underrated Roussel's fabulously rich and colorful world.

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Editorial Reviews

Newark Star-Ledger - Bradley Bambarger
One of the year's essential discs.... Eschenbach delves into the Second Symphony as if in a new love affair.

Product Details

Release Date:
06/27/2006
Label:
Ondine
UPC:
0761195106525
catalogNumber:
1065
Rank:
155995

Tracks

  1. Bacchus et Ariane, Suite No. 1  - Albert Roussel  - Christoph Eschenbach  - Eduardo Nestor Gomez  - Reijo Kiilunen  -  Orchestre de Paris  - Kevin Kleinmann
  2. Bacchus et Ariane, Suite No. 2  - Albert Roussel  - Christoph Eschenbach  - Eduardo Nestor Gomez  - Reijo Kiilunen  -  Orchestre de Paris  - Kevin Kleinmann
  3. Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 23  - Albert Roussel  - Christoph Eschenbach  - Eduardo Nestor Gomez  - Reijo Kiilunen  -  Orchestre de Paris  - Kevin Kleinmann

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