RARE VINTAGE CLASSICAL SYMPHONIC BALLET IN TWO ACTS
THE MUSICAL HERITAGE SOCIETY STEREO MHS 1244
SLEEVE IS IN GOOD CONDITION - LP IS IN EXCELLENT CONDITION
composed by ALBERT ROUSSEL
Though less well known than his contemporaries Ravel and Debussy, Albert Roussel is nevertheless regarded as one of the most important figures in early twentieth century French music. Roussel's music reflects his efforts to explore new possibilities of expression while remaining faithful to traditional musical ideas; evident in his chamber music and works for the stage, this tension between traditionalism and experimentation is particularly successful in his symphonies.
Born into an affluent family, Roussel lost both his parents when he was very young, and was entrusted to the care of his grandfather at age seven; in 1880, the grandfather died, and a maternal aunt took over the responsibility of raising the boy. Although he was interested in music, Roussel decided to pursue a naval career; he graduated from the Ecole Navale in 1889, eventually serving in Indochina as an officer.
In 1894, however, Roussel resigned his commission, devoting himself completely to music. He went to Paris, where he studied with the composer and organist Eugene Gigout. Four years later, he began studies with Vincent d'Indy at the newly-founded Schola Cantorum. In 1902, although he had not yet completed his studies, Roussel became professor of counterpoint at the Schola Cantorum.
Having already composed several significant works (including his Piano Trio and the First Symphony), Roussel married Blanche Preisach in 1908; the following year, the two traveled to India, where he was exposed to the medieval Hindu legend of Queen Padmavati, who sacrificed her life for love. Fascinated by this story, Roussel decided to set it to music (his opera, Padmåvatî, 1923).
At the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Roussel applied for active duty, eventually obtaining an artillery commission; after the war, having retired to Perros-Guirec on the coast of Brittany, he focused on unfinished projects, which included the opera-ballet Padmåvatî. This work, which incorporates elements of traditional Indian music, marked a new period for Roussel, whose earlier compositions showed influences of Impressionism.
During the 1920s, Roussel struggled to balance an increasing structural complexity with emotional expressiveness in his works. His Second Symphony, completed in 1921, exemplifies this tension; in Roussel's subsequent works, the listener can also detect elements of neo-Classicism.
In 1922, Roussel settled in Vasterival, in the coast of Normandy. Despite increasingly frail health, he devoted much of his energy to composing; he completed the Piano Concerto in 1927. His increasing public esteem is evidenced by a festival entirely devoted to his works in Paris (1927) as well as a commission from the Boston Symphony Orchestra for that organization's 50th anniversary (Third Symphony, 1930); Roussel traveled to the United States for the performance.
Works composed toward the end of Roussel's life, such as the String Quartet (1931-1932), the Fourth Symphony (1934), and the String Trio (1937), show his melodic idiom to be enriched by elements of chromaticism and polytonality. In these compositions, Roussel managed a successful synthesis of these new elements with the transparency of his earlier style.
Bacchus et Ariane, ballet, Op. 43
Receiving its premiere in a lavish production at the Paris Opéra on May 22, 1931, — with Olga Spessiwtsewa dancing Ariane, Serge Peretti as Theseus, and choreography by Serge Lifar, who danced Bacchus — Bacchus et Ariane met a cool reception and venomous criticism of the set and costumes by Giorgio di Chirico. The flop was remarkable, for, taken with his Third Symphony, Bacchus et Ariane is the glowing summit of Roussel's symphonic art. Partitioned into suites, the ballet's two acts have won success in the concert hall, beginning with performances led by Charles Munch in 1933 and by Pierre Monteux in 1934.
Taking up music as a career in his mid-twenties, in a time of unparalleled diversity and experimentation, Roussel was keenly aware of style. A prolonged flirtation with the sensuous world of Impressionism stimulated his first symphonic masterpieces — the Symphony No. 1 ("Le Poème de la forêt" ) and the glowing Evocations (1910). With Evocations, and his marriage to Blanche Preisach followed by an extended honeymoon in India and Cambodia, a strain of exoticism colored his work, culminating in the great opera-ballet, Padmâvatî (1914/18). The "hermetic" Second Symphony (the composer's description [1919/21]) marks a stylistic shake-out, a turn toward purely musical processes, and a new — non-programmatic, non-descriptive — linear classicism realized in the works of the 1920s, and preeminently in the condensed, powerful utterance of the Third Symphony (1929/30).
Thus, when offered Abel Hermant's scenario for Bacchus et Ariane, Roussel took it with the serenity of a master raconteur who knows how to marshal his effects — and who has considerable effects to marshal — lavishing them upon this ancient fable which has fired the imaginations of musicians through the ages. From the opening propulsive bound, celebrating Theseus' slaying of the Minotaur, the listener is transported by a unique rhythmic vivacity of strongly accented, often enticingly irregular, and arrestingly shifting meters. For Roussel, the Dionysian is not (as it was for, say, Szymanowski) primarily intoxicating and erotic — Bacchus is a god of enchantments and compelling dynamism. And Ariane never fails to draw from him music of sinuous tenderness. Throughout, the score is rife with glowing melody and preternatural animation, couched in orchestral writing ranging from caressing sorcery to coruscating brilliance. The music rises to each moment — Ariane's salto mortale, Bacchus' kiss and spell, the procession of Bacchic worshippers, and so on — with richly compact, spellbinding invention. And it must be said that the final Bacchanale and coronation of Ariane ranks among the most powerfully whelming endings in French music of any genre.
performed by the
NATIONAL ORCHESTRA of the O.R.T.F.
In the words of one of his biographers, conductor Jean Martinon's performances "were distinguished by a concern for translucent orchestral textures, and sustained by a subtle sense of rhythm and phrasing." Occasionally, "he stressed a poetic inflection at the expense of literal accuracy."
Martinon's first instrument was the violin; he studied at the Lyons Conservatory (1924-1925), then transferred to the Paris Conservatory, where he won first prize in violin upon his graduation in 1928. He subsequently studied composition, with Albert Roussel, and conducting, with Charles Munch and Roger Desormière. Until the outbreak of World War II, Martinon was primarily a composer. His early substantial works include a Symphoniette for piano, percussion, and strings (1935); Symphony No. 1 (1936); Concerto giocoso for violin and orchestra (1937); and a wind quintet (1938). At the start of the war he was drafted into the French army. Taken prisoner in 1940, he passed the next two years in a Nazi labor camp. There, he wrote Stalag IX (Musique d'exil), an orchestral piece incorporating elements of jazz; during his internment, he also composed several religious works, including Absolve, Domine for male chorus and orchestra, and Psalm 136 (Chant des captifs), the latter receiving a composition prize from the city of Paris in 1946.
Upon his release from the Nazi camp, Martinon became conductor of the Bordeaux Symphony Orchestra (from 1943 to 1945) and assistant conductor of the Paris Conservatory Orchestra (from 1944 to 1946), then associate conductor of the London Philharmonic (from 1947 to 1949). He toured as a guest conductor as well, although his U.S. debut did not come until 1957, with the Boston Symphony giving the American premiere of his Symphony No. 2. Although he devoted as much time as he could to composing in the early postwar years — producing a string quartet (1946), an "Irish" Symphony (1948), the ballet Ambohimanga (1946), and the opera Hécube (1949-1954) — he was increasingly occupied with conducting, working with the Concerts Lamoureux (from 1951 to 1957), the Israel Philharmonic (from 1957 to 1959), and Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra (from 1960 to 1966). In 1963, he succeeded Fritz Reiner as head of the Chicago Symphony. Martinon's tenure there was difficult. In five seasons, he conducted 60 works by modern European and American composers, and made a number of outstanding LPs for RCA, mostly of bracing twentieth century repertory in audiophile sound. Chicago's conservative music lovers soon sent him packing.
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