Roussel, Albert


Roussel, Albert

Duo pour basson et contrebasse – original version and transcription for bassoon and orchestral double bass (new edition / score and parts)


Albert Roussel

Duo pour basson et contrebasse (1925)

Original version for bassoon and solo double bass
Transcribed version for bassoon and orchestral double bass

(b. Tourcoing, 5 April 1869 — d. Royan, 23 August 1937)


It was not until the late age of twenty-five that Albert Roussel, then an officer in the French navy, decided to pursue composition. He renounced the “invisible magnetism of the sea” that had taken him to the Far East aboard the gunship Styx, divested himself of his last compositional gaucheries, won not one but two composition prizes in 1897, and followed Vincent d’Indy to Paris and the Schola Cantorum, where he would teach counterpoint until 1914.

Though initially oriented on the style of the César Franck School, he soon, like most composers with something substantial to say, developed a uniquely personal voice. His first important works – the First Piano Trio, op. 2 (1902), followed by the oddly mystic aura of the symphonic prelude Résurrection, op. 4 (1903) – point in quite opposite directions. After a few symphonic sketches and piano pieces he then turned out four impressionist tone-poems depicting the seasons (1904-6). These he gathered together to create his “first symphony,” Poème de la forêt op. 7, premièred in Brussels on 22 March 1908. The Divertissement for wind quintet and piano, op. 6 (1906), with its lightness and brevity, speaks a quite different language – straitlaced, modernist, entertaining – that strikingly anticipates elements of Stravinsky. Here we already find, in embryo, the hallmarks of Roussel’s mature style: a self-contained dynamism in the figuration, often driving to absurd extremes the balance between principal and secondary material; a straightforward rhythmic propulsion that rubs against the grain; idiosyncratic tempo relations; and a general character of maverick elegance in which brittleness and sensuality, ecstasy and level-headedness, blend into a fascinating unity.

After Le marchand de sable qui passe (op. 13), a one-act conte lyrique of 1908 for chamber ensemble, Roussel produced the symphonic triptych Évocations (op. 15), an inward response to his journeys to India and Indochina. Written from 1910 to 1912, it deftly avoids the shopworn banalities of French exoticism to conjure up the cave-temples of Ellora, the pink city of Jaipur, and Varanasi and the Ganges, movingly evoked with a chorus and vocal soloists. Then, in 1912, came his most impressionist score of all: the “spider-ballet” Le festin de l’araignée (op. 17). The grand ballet-opera Padmâvati (1914-18), one of Roussel’s most magnificent creations, stands out with its deliberately strange, even threatening language, weaving Indian modes in dark majesty into a wholly distinctive universe. From 1919 to 1921 he wrote his Second Symphony (op. 23), a masterpiece of organically convoluted architecture in its rigorous irregularities and a clear volte face from the perfumed sensibilities of the impressionists. At the same time, in 1920, he also turned out the tone-poem Pour une fête de printemps (op. 22). From 1922 to 1924 he composed La Naissance de la lyre (op. 24), a conte lyrique in one act and five scenes based on a poem by Théodore Reinach and dedicated to Serge Koussevitzky, one of the conductors who devoted themselves intensively to Roussel’s music.

Read full preface / Komplettes Vorwort lesen > HERE

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