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Roussel: Complete Piano Music / Emanuele Torquati

Release Date: 08/28/2012 
Label:  Brilliant Classics   Catalog #: 94329   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Albert Roussel
Performer:  Emanuele Torquati
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The French composer Albert Roussel (1869--1937) was ideally placed to develop a unique musical style. His background was more colourful than most of his fellow composers (he initially studied mathematics and worked as a naval officer before devoting himself to music), while his early years as a composer saw him exposed to a barrage of rich but conflicting musical influences: the impressionist movement (spearheaded by Debussy) and the more traditional approach of the Schola Cantorum (championed by d'Indy and Franck).

Roussel absorbed the wide-ranging styles that he heard around him, blending and modifying them to establish his own distinctive voice -- a voice that can be perceived clearly in his music for solo piano.
Read more Traditional musical forms are a frequent point of inspiration: in the Suite in F sharp Op.14, Roussel uses rustic dances as a basis to explore both counterpoint and tonal disintegration, while the Bach-inspired Prélude et Fugue demonstrates the neo-Classical style that he was drawn to in his later period.

Above all, Roussel's piano music is characterised by its unique synthesis of rationality and feeling. This approach -- exploring tradition while pushing boundaries -- is captured expertly by the award-winning pianist Emanuele Torquati; his subtle yet vital performances make this two-disc set a must-have for any enthusiasts of French music.

Other information:
- This is one of the few complete recordings of Roussel's piano oeuvre, and unique in its price category. It contains the world premiere of Roussel's own piano transcription of the Resurrection Op. 4.
- The piano music of French composer Albert Roussel (1869-1937) is a unique blend of musical Impressionism (with protagonists Claude Debussy, and, to a lesser extent, Maurice Ravel), and the Late Romantic style of composers like Cesar Franck and Vincent d'Indy, indulging in rich and dark Wagnerian chromatism.
- Emanuele Torquati is specialist in French repertoire, and presents a valuable addition to Brilliant Classics' discography of French piano music (available are complete sets of the piano music of Debussy, Ravel, Fauré and Franck).
- New liner notes written by musicologist Roberta Milanaccio.

R E V I E W:

ROUSSEL Des heures passent. Résurrection. Rustiques. Petit canon perpétuel. Doute. Conte à la poupée. L’accueil des muses. Suite in f?. Sonatine. Le festin de l’araignée: Waltz. Segovia. Prélude et Fugue. 3 Pieces Emanuele Torquati (pn) BRILLIANT 94329 (2 CDs: 120:04)

It boggles the mind that a composer of the quality and ingenious creativity of Albert Roussel, born in 1869, is still barely known (and only sporadically recorded) 140 years later. His principal champion during the 20th century was Ernest Ansermet, who recorded two of his symphonies and the music from his ballet Le festin de l’araignée (The Spider’s Feast, from which Arturo Toscanini also performed the symphonic suite). But even a figure as respected as Ansermet could not sell Roussel to the larger public. Thus it was a great gesture on the part of Naxos to have Stéphane Denève record his complete orchestral music, and now here we have a recording of his complete piano music.

Technically speaking, this is the second such recording: the first was made for Philips in 1969 by Jean Boguet, still available from ArkivMusic as a special reissue on Philips 422138, which I haven’t heard. Nor have I heard the single disc of Roussel piano music made by Alain Raës in 1979, still available on Solstice Records 08. Yet in a sense, it is almost a good thing to come to Roussel’s piano music without any preconceived notions, because he was such a good composer that one is both enriched and surprised by the high quality of his scores. Although Roussel was strongly influenced by d’Indy and therefore considered a “non-impressionist,” I hear a great deal of the French impressionist style in his piano music, particularly in Des heures passent and Résurrection, with their fluttering left-hand figures and chromatic inflections in the right-hand melodic line, even though the fourth piece in Des heures, titled “Champêtres,” has quite a formal canonic structure more reminiscent of Bach than of Ravel or Debussy.

Speaking of Résurrection, this piece—written in 1903 and inspired by Tolstoy’s novel—was originally composed for mezzo-soprano, tenor, and baritone with full orchestra. There is a version available in this format by Nathalie Stutzmann, Nicolai Gedda, and José van Dam with the Toulouse Capitole Orchestra conducted by Michel Plasson (EMI Classics 65564), but I haven’t heard that disc. This piano transcription receives its world premiere recording here. As in all his performances on this set, Italian pianist Emanuele Torquati plays with a good feeling for the delicacy and warmth of the score, bringing out its subtle and, yes, impressionistic harmonies with exquisite taste and touch. Debussy-like impressionism is also heard in the three-movement Rustiques, Roussel’s first attempt at a major piano work, inspired by the forest of Fontainbleau. Much of this work is reminiscent of Charles Koechlin’s Les heures Persanes, not least the unusual rhythmic figures, which sound “regular” until one starts counting and gets lost. Such patterns eventually suggest no regular tempo at all, but merely a ruminating quality, which was apparently Roussel’s intention. Most evocative of the three pieces is the central one, titled “Sentimental Promenade in the Forest.”

The strong impressionistic quality of Roussel’s piano music continues through the other pieces on CD 1: Petite canon perpetual, Doute, Conte à la poupée and L’accueil des muses pour le tombeau de Claude Debussy (well, you’d almost expect as much in the last-named piece). But with the 1909-10 Suite in F?-Minor, a clearer, less opaque aesthetic comes to the fore and the influence of d’Indy becomes more apparent. I must admit being less impressed by the Sonatine of 1912: yes, this music has a sort of moto perpetuo about it, but by and large it stays in one place rather than going somewhere. The little waltz from his ballet score Le festin de l’araignée, on the other hand, is utterly charming, as is the piece—originally written for guitar—dedicated to Andrés Segovia. The latter, in fact, has much more modern harmonies than the previous pieces in the set. On the other hand, the last two works—a Prelude and Fugue from 1932-24 and the Three Pieces, op. 49, of 1933 (dedicated to Robert Casadesus)—are very much modern music, and extremely fine music at that. Gone completely is the impressionistic feeling of the earlier pieces; while still French in character, this music sounds more in line with the works of Poulenc or Honegger.

Torquati’s playing is consistent, and consistently good. I would highly recommend this set to any student of Roussel, or those who wish to explore this fine composer beyond his orchestral works.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Read less

Works on This Recording

Suite for Piano in F sharp minor, Op. 14 by Albert Roussel
Performer:  Emanuele Torquati (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909-1910; France 
Sonatina for Piano, Op. 16 by Albert Roussel
Performer:  Emanuele Torquati (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912; France 
Ségovia, Op. 29 by Albert Roussel
Performer:  Emanuele Torquati (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; France 
Rustiques (3) for Piano, Op. 5 by Albert Roussel
Performer:  Emanuele Torquati (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904-1906; France 
Résurrection, Op. 4 by Albert Roussel
Performer:  Emanuele Torquati (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; France 
Prelude and Fugue for Piano, Op. 46 by Albert Roussel
Performer:  Emanuele Torquati (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932-1934; France 
Pieces (3) for Piano, Op. 49 by Albert Roussel
Performer:  Emanuele Torquati (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933; France 
Petit Canon perpetuel by Albert Roussel
Performer:  Emanuele Torquati (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913; France 
L'accueil des muses "In memoriam Debussy" by Albert Roussel
Performer:  Emanuele Torquati (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; France 
Doute by Albert Roussel
Performer:  Emanuele Torquati (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; France 
Des heures passent, Op. 1 by Albert Roussel
Performer:  Emanuele Torquati (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1898; France 
Conte à la poupée by Albert Roussel
Performer:  Emanuele Torquati (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904; France 
Le festin de l'araignée, Op. 17: Waltz by Albert Roussel
Performer:  Emanuele Torquati (Piano)

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 French Piano Adventure March 6, 2014 By bess holloway (Boulder, CO) See All My Reviews "Roussel's music was unknown to me before I bought this disc. It is beautifully played and recorded here. A set of two at this price should encourage other listeners to experiment. It has my yes vote!" Report Abuse
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