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Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937)
Symphony No. 3 in G minor, Op. 42 (1929) [25:31]
Bacchus et Ariane, Op. 43 (1930) [37:37]
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Stéphane Denève
rec. Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, 17-18 October 2006 (Symphony); 2-4 May 2006 (Bacchus). DDD
NAXOS 8.570245 [63:08]


Denève proves to have substantial credentials as a Roussellian in this admirable conjoining of the Third Symphony and both of the Bacchus et Ariane suites. He starts as he means to go on; the incisive and dramatically pounding rhythms of the introductory measures alert one both to the clarity and precision of his beat and also to the tactile and intensely emotive support offered by his collaborators, the really on-form Royal Scottish National Orchestra. He spins admirably light textures too and generates a splendid lift in the more refined and lyric material of the first movement. On the debit side some may find more personality in the doughtily held convictions that, say, Cluytens expressed hereabouts. His orchestra may have been less nimble but the sense of idiomatic struggle he generated was emotive and not a result of executant fallibility.


Still, those who find in Roussel’s slow movement a core of powerful emotionalism will find Denève wholly admirable. String tone is warmly moulded, the tonal blend throughout the string choirs has been assiduously attended to, and the sense of diaphanous colouration is pervasive. This fulsome self-expression lends the movement a vibrancy and intimacy that encompasses a Mahlerian hint or two; and the climax is genuinely powerful and brilliantly played. Still, to point out contrasting features, you might note that Cluytens with his Paris orchestra (EMI and Testament) is a minute quicker than the newcomer and presents an altogether cooler, more remote picture and is far less inclined to lay emotive cards on the table. Such divergences are of course consistent.  Denève’s scherzo is lightly and brightly etched; Cluytens goes for a pawky and slower moving edifice. Both take an identical tempo in the finale though Denève’s rhythmic profile is more athletic, his rhythms more incisive; Cluytens remains more earthy and rambunctious. Denève is rich topsoil to Cluytens’s clay.


Similar virtues attend the two suites. He can certainly make a Roussel conductor like Prêtre sound staid and more than a touch square, though Prêtre (the EMI sets are however not complete) of course has qualities of his own. Denève sets a cracking pace in the appearance of Bacchus in Suite I. Here he really is full of crackle and dynamism, those accents biting with Stravinskian fire. He’s not as urgent as Prêtre in The Dream of Ariane in Suite No.2 but the playing is full of maximal clarity and verve, despite the relatively slower tempo. Try the Bacchanale – excellently projected, genuinely intense and with whiplash orchestral responses.


If that’s what you seek in Roussel then this newcomer has bounty to offer. It’s full of vitality and dynamism and is superbly recorded.


Jonathan Woolf


see also Review by Colin Clarke June BARGAIN OF THE MONTH


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