La Bonne Chanson (Fauré)
La Bonne Chanson, Op. 61, by Gabriel Fauré, is a song cycle of nine mélodies for voice and piano. He composed it during 1892–94; the cycle is based on nine of the poems from the collection of the same name by Paul Verlaine. According to Fauré himself, the song cycle contains a number of musical themes which recur from song to song, he had devised this technique for the 1891 song cycle Cinq mélodies "de Venise", based on Verlaine's poetry. Much of the cycle was composed in the summers of 1892 and 1893 while Fauré was staying in Bougival, as the guest of the banker Sigismond Bardac and his wife, the soprano Emma Bardac. Fauré was in love with her. Fauré wrote that the cycle was his most spontaneous creation, with Bardac singing the newly composed material for him each day; the final song, "L'hiver a cessé", was completed in February 1894, the cycle was published by Hamelle that year, with a dedication to Emma Bardac. In a 1902 interview conducted by Louis Aguettant for Le Courrier musical, Fauré enumerated five main musical themes which recur throughout the cycle until they appear together in the final song, "L'hiver a cessé".
One of these themes was taken from his earlier mélodie "Lydia", Op. 4, No. 2. Fauré's settings are as follows: "Une sainte en son auréole" "Puisque l'aube grandit" "La lune blanche luit dans les bois" "J'allais par des chemins perfides" "J'ai presque peur, en vérité" "Avant que tu ne t'en ailles" "Donc, ce sera par un clair jour d'été" "N'est-ce pas?" "L'hiver a cessé"Fauré's ordering of the settings does not correspond to that of their appearances within Verlaine's collection of 21 poems. La Bonne Chanson had a private premiere at the residence of the Countess de Saussine on 25 April 1894, sung by Maurice Bagès, its first public performance was at the Société Nationale de Musique on 20 April 1895, sung by Jeanne Remacle. Fauré was the pianist; the work was not well received by the musically conservative audience. Camille Saint-Saëns declared. In contrast, Marcel Proust, at the private premiere in 1894, wrote that he adored it; the string quintet version was premiered in London, on 1 April 1898 at the house of Frank Schuster, with Bagès and Fauré performing.
In 1918 Fauré adapted and extended a brief section from "Une sainte en son auréole" to produce Une châtelaine en sa tour, Op. 110, a work for solo harp dedicated to the harpist Micheline Kahn. She premiered the work at the Société Nationale de Musique on 30 November 1918. "Gabriel Fauré: La bonne chanson" Gérard Souzay and Dalton Baldwin Philips Gabriel Fauré: Lieder Bernard Kruysen and Noël Lee La Bonne Chanson: French Chamber Songs Anne Sofie von Otter et al.. Deutsche Grammophon Mélodies Gerard Wyss. Philips Fauré, Duparc: Mélodies Hugues Cuénod with Martin Isepp. Nimbus Records Songs Charles Panzéra with Magdeleine Panzéra-Baillot and Alfred Cortot. L' Horizon chimérique: Works by Gabriel Fauré Sanford Sylvan with David Breitman and the Lydia String Quartet. Nonesuch Records Pierre Mollet with Simone Gouat Accord "La bonne chanson". LA Phil. Retrieved 5 April 2011. Nectoux, Jean-Michel. Gabriel Fauré: A Musical Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-61695-6. Orledge, Robert. Gabriel Fauré.
London: Eulenburg Books. ISBN 0-903873-40-0. La bonne chanson: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project French texts and English translations at The Lied, Art Song, Choral Texts Page
The lied is a term in the German vernacular to describe setting poetry to classical music to create a piece of polyphonic music. The term is used for songs from the late fourteenth or early fifteenth centuries or to refer to Minnesang from as early as the 12th and 13th centuries, it came to refer to settings of Romantic poetry during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, into the early twentieth century. Examples include settings by Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf or Richard Strauss. Among English speakers, however, "lied" is used interchangeably with "art song" to encompass works that the tradition has inspired in other languages; the poems that have been made into lieder center on pastoral themes or themes of romantic love. Lieder are arranged for a single singer and piano, lieder with orchestral accompaniment being a development; some of the most famous examples of lieder are Schubert's "Der Tod und das Mädchen", "Gretchen am Spinnrade", "Der Doppelgänger".
Sometimes lieder are composed in a song cycle, a series of songs tied by a single narrative or theme, such as Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise, or Robert Schumann's Frauenliebe und -leben and Dichterliebe. Schubert and Schumann are most associated with this genre developed in the Romantic era. For German speakers, the term "Lied" has a long history ranging from twelfth-century troubadour songs via folk songs and church hymns to twentieth-century workers' songs or protest songs; the German word Lied for "song" first came into general use in German during the early fifteenth century displacing the earlier word gesang. The poet and composer Oswald von Wolkenstein is sometimes claimed to be the creator of the lied because of his innovations in combining words and music; the late-fourteenth-century composer known as the Monk of Salzburg wrote six two-part lieder which are older still, but Oswald's songs far surpass the Monk of Salzburg in both number and quality. In Germany, the great age of song came in the nineteenth century.
German and Austrian composers had written music for voice with keyboard before this time, but it was with the flowering of German literature in the Classical and Romantic eras that composers found inspiration in poetry that sparked the genre known as the lied. The beginnings of this tradition are seen in the songs of Mozart and Beethoven, but it was with Schubert that a new balance was found between words and music, a new expression of the sense of the words in and through the music. Schubert wrote over 600 songs, some of them in sequences or song cycles that relate an adventure of the soul rather than the body; the tradition was continued by Schumann and Hugo Wolf, on into the 20th century by Strauss and Pfitzner. Composers of atonal music, such as Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, composed lieder in their own style; the lied tradition is linked with the German language, but there are parallels elsewhere, notably in France, with the mélodies of such composers as Berlioz, Fauré, Francis Poulenc, in Russia, with the songs of Mussorgsky and Rachmaninoff in particular.
England too had a flowering of song, more associated, with folk songs than with art songs, as represented by Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten, Ivor Gurney, Gerald Finzi. American Heritage Dictionary, Editors of. 2018. "Lied". Random House Unabridged Dictionary. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Anon. 2014. "Lieder". GCSE Bitesize: BBC Schools. Böker-Heil, David Fallows, John H. Baron, James Parsons, Eric Sams, Graham Johnson, Paul Griffiths. "Lied". Grove Music Online, edited by Deane L. Root. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed December 26, 2016. Collins English Dictionary, Editors of. N.d. "Lied". Collins English Dictionary online. Deaville, James. "A Multitude of Voices: The Lied at Mid Century". In The Cambridge Companion to the Lied, edited by James Parsons, 142–67. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-80471-4. Encyclopædia Britannica, Editors of The. 1998. "Lied: German Song". Encyclopædia Britannica online. Gramit, David. "The Circulation of the Lied: The Double Life of an Art Form".
In The Cambridge Companion to the Lied, edited by James Parsons, 301–14. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-80471-4. Orrey and John Warrack. "Lied". The Oxford Companion to Music, edited by Alison Latham. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866212-9. Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Editors of. 1997. "Lied". Random House Unabridged Dictionary. New York: Random House, Inc. reprinted on Infoplease.. Thyme, Jürgen. 2005. "Schubert’s Strategies in Setting Free Verse". In Word and Music Studies: Essays on Music and the Spoken Word and on Surveying the Field: Essays from the Fourth International Conference in Word and Music Stu
Les nuits d'été
Les nuits d'été, Op. 7, is a song cycle by the French composer Hector Berlioz. It is a setting of six poems by Théophile Gautier; the cycle, completed in 1841, was for soloist and piano accompaniment. Berlioz orchestrated one of the songs in 1843, did the same for the other five in 1856; the cycle was neglected for many years, but during the 20th century it became, has remained, one of the composer's most popular works. The full orchestral version is more performed in concert and on record than the piano original; the theme of the work is the progress of love, from youthful innocence to loss and renewal. Berlioz and the poet Théophile Gautier were friends. Gautier wrote, "Berlioz represents the romantic musical idea... unexpected effects in sound and Shakespearean depth of passion." It is possible that Berlioz read Gautier's collection La comédie de la mort before its publication in 1838. Gautier had no objection to his friend's setting six poems from that volume, Berlioz began in March 1840; the title Nuits d'été was Berlioz's invention, it is not clear why he chose it: the first song is set in spring rather than summer.
The writer Annagret Fauser suggests that Berlioz may have been influenced by the preface to a collection of short stories by his friend Joseph Méry, Les nuits de Londres, in which the author writes of summer nights in which he and his friends sat outside until dawn telling stories. In a 1989 study of Berlioz, D. Kern Holoman suggests that the title is an allusion to Shakespeare, whose works Berlioz loved; the cycle was complete in its original version for voice and piano by 1841. Berlioz made arrangements for baritone, contralto, or soprano, piano; the piano version is not as performed in concert or on record as the orchestrated score, which Berlioz arranged between 1843 and 1856. David Cairns wrote in 1988 that the success of the piano version was impeded by the inferior quality of the piano part in the published score: it is not Berlioz's own, Cairns described it as "a clumsy, inauthentic piece of work". In 1843 Berlioz orchestrated the fourth song, "Absence" for his lover, Marie Recio, who premiered it in Leipzig on 23 February 1843.
The publisher Jakob Rieter-Biedermann was in the audience for the premiere, much impressed, prevailed on Berlioz to orchestrate the rest of the cycle. The orchestration left the existing melodic and harmonic writing unchanged, but for "Le spectre de la rose" the composer added an introduction for muted solo cello and clarinet; the original piano version had a single dedicatee – Louise Bertin, whose father, Louis-François Bertin, was editor of the Journal des débats, for which Berlioz wrote musical criticism and other articles. Each of the six songs of the orchestral cycle was dedicated individually, to singers well known in Germany, some of whom had performed Berlioz's music there: Louise Wolf, Anna Bockholtz-Falconi, Hans von Milde, Madeleine Nottès, Friedrich Caspari and Rosa von Milde. For the orchestral version, Berlioz transposed the third songs to lower keys; when this version was published, Berlioz specified different voices for the various songs: mezzo-soprano or tenor for "Villanelle", contralto for "Le spectre de la rose", baritone for "Sur les lagunes", mezzo or tenor for "Absence", tenor for "Au cimetière", mezzo or tenor for "L'île inconnue".
The cycle is usually sung by a single soloist, most a soprano or mezzo-soprano. When the cycle is sung by sopranos the second and third songs are transposed back to their original pitches. Although Berlioz wrote more than fifty songs, twenty of them with orchestral accompaniment, those in Les nuits d'été are the only ones published as a set, they are not a cycle on the German model of Schubert's Winterreise or Schumann's Dichterliebe, with narrative and thematic continuity, but form a unified whole by virtue of the single authorship of the words and the composer's use throughout of delicate, atmospheric musical shading. The structure of the cycle has four sombre songs framed by exuberant closing ones; the critic A. E. F. Dickinson wrote in a 1969 study, "Their common theme is nominally love unrequited or lost, arguably, an ache for vanished or unattainable beauty, but their musical order is fortuitous, forms an acceptable, rather than a compulsive, association." Berlioz's innovative creation of an orchestral song cycle had few successors until Mahler took the genre up in the late 19th century.
As far as is known, the orchestral cycle was not performed in its entirety during the composer's lifetime. The work was neglected for many years, but during the twentieth century it was rediscovered and has become one of Berlioz's best-loved works. By Berlioz's standards the orchestration is on a modest scale. There is no percussion, the forces stipulated are the normal string section of violins, violas and double-basses. Allegretto Key: A major; the first of the set, "Vi
Louis-Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer. His output includes orchestral works such as the Symphonie fantastique and Harold in Italy, choral pieces including the Requiem and L'enfance du Christ, his three operas Benvenuto Cellini, Les Troyens and Béatrice et Bénédict, works of hybrid genres such as the "dramatic symphony" Roméo et Juliette and the "dramatic legend" La damnation de Faust; the elder son of a provincial doctor, Berlioz was expected to follow his father into medicine, he attended a Parisian medical college before defying his family by taking up music as a profession. His independence of mind and refusal to follow traditional rules and formulas put him at odds with the conservative musical establishment of Paris, he moderated his style sufficiently to win France's premier music prize, the Prix de Rome, in 1830 but he learned little from the academics of the Paris Conservatoire. Opinion was divided for many years between those who thought him an original genius and those who viewed his music as lacking in form and coherence.
At age 22 Berlioz fell in love with the Irish Shakespearean actress Harriet Smithson, he pursued her obsessively until she accepted him seven years later. Their marriage was happy at first but foundered. Harriet inspired his first major success, the Symphonie fantastique, in which an idealised depiction of her occurs throughout. Berlioz completed the first of which, Benvenuto Cellini, was an outright failure; the second, the huge epic Les Troyens, was so large in scale that it was never staged in its entirety during his lifetime. His last opera, Béatrice et Bénédict – based on Shakespeare's comedy Much Ado About Nothing – was a success at its premiere but did not enter the regular operatic repertoire. Meeting only occasional success in France as a composer, Berlioz turned to conducting, in which he gained an international reputation, he was regarded in Germany and Russia both as a composer and as a conductor. To supplement his earnings he wrote musical journalism throughout much of his career.
Berlioz died in Paris at the age of 65. Berlioz was born on 11 December 1803, the eldest child of Louis Berlioz, a physician, his wife, Marie-Antoinette Joséphine, née Marmion, his birthplace was the family home in the commune of La Côte-Saint-André in the département of Isère, in south-eastern France. His parents had five more children. Berlioz's father, a respected local figure, was a progressively-minded doctor credited as the first European to practise and write about acupuncture, he was an agnostic with a liberal outlook. After attending a local school when he was about ten, Berlioz was educated at home by his father, he recalled in his Mémoires that he enjoyed geography books about travel, to which his mind would sometimes wander when he was supposed to be studying Latin. He studied philosophy, – because his father planned a medical career for him – anatomy. Music did not feature prominently in the young Berlioz's education, his father gave him basic instruction on the flageolet, he took flute and guitar lessons with local teachers.
He never studied the piano, throughout his life played haltingly at best. He contended that this was an advantage because it "saved me from the tyranny of keyboard habits, so dangerous to thought, from the lure of conventional harmonies". At the age of twelve Berlioz fell in love for the first time; the object of his affections was Estelle Dubœuf. He was teased for what was seen as a boyish crush, but something of his early passion for Estelle endured all his life, he poured some of his unrequited feelings into his early attempts at composition. Trying to master harmony, he read Rameau's Traité de l'harmonie, which proved incomprehensible to a novice, but Charles-Simon Catel's simpler treatise on the subject made it clearer to him, he wrote several chamber works as a youth, subsequently destroying the manuscripts, but one theme that remained in his mind reappeared as the A-flat second subject of the overture to Les francs-juges. In March 1821 Berlioz passed the baccalauréat examination at the University of Grenoble – it is not certain whether at the first or second attempt – and in late September, aged seventeen, he moved to Paris.
At his father's insistence he enrolled at the School of Medicine of the University of Paris. He had to fight hard to overcome his revulsion at dissecting bodies, but in deference to his father's wishes, he forced himself to continue his medical studies; the horrors of the medical college were mitigated thanks to an ample allowance from his father, which enabled him to take full advantage of the cultural, musical, life of Paris. Music did not at that time enjoy the prestige of literature in French culture, but Paris nonetheless possessed two major opera houses and the country's most important music library. Berlioz took advantage of them all. Within days of arriving in Paris he went to the Opéra, although the piece on offer was by a minor composer, the staging and the magnificent orchestral playing enchanted him, he went to other works at the Opéra-Comique.
Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc was a French composer and pianist. His compositions include mélodies, solo piano works, chamber music, choral pieces, operas and orchestral concert music. Among the best-known are the piano suite Trois mouvements perpétuels, the ballet Les biches, the Concert champêtre for harpsichord and orchestra, the Organ Concerto, the opera Dialogues des Carmélites, the Gloria for soprano and orchestra; as the only son of a prosperous manufacturer Poulenc was expected to follow his father into the family firm, he was not allowed to enrol at a music college. Self-educated musically, he studied with the pianist Ricardo Viñes, who became his mentor after the composer's parents died. Poulenc soon came under the influence of Erik Satie, under whose tutelage he became one of a group of young composers known collectively as Les Six. In his early works Poulenc became known for his high spirits and irreverence. During the 1930s a much more serious side to his nature emerged in the religious music he composed from 1936 onwards, which he alternated with his more light-hearted works.
In addition to composing, Poulenc was an accomplished pianist. He was celebrated for his performing partnerships with the baritone Pierre Bernac and the soprano Denise Duval, touring in Europe and America with each, making many recordings, he was among the first composers to see the importance of the gramophone, he recorded extensively from 1928 onwards. In his years, for decades after his death, Poulenc had a reputation in his native country, as a humorous, lightweight composer, his religious music was overlooked. During the 21st century more attention has been given to his serious works, with many new productions of Dialogues des Carmélites and La voix humaine worldwide, numerous live and recorded performances of his songs and choral music. Poulenc was born in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, the younger child and only son of Émile Poulenc and his wife, Jenny, née Royer. Émile Poulenc was a joint owner of a successful manufacturer of pharmaceuticals. He was a member of a pious Roman Catholic family from Espalion in the département of Aveyron.
Jenny Poulenc was from a Parisian family with wide artistic interests. In Poulenc's view, the two sides of his nature grew out of this background: a deep religious faith from his father's family and a worldly and artistic side from his mother's; the critic Claude Rostand described Poulenc as "half monk and half naughty boy". Poulenc grew up in a musical household, he took piano lessons from the age of five. Other composers whose works influenced his development were Schubert and Stravinsky: the former's Winterreise and the latter's The Rite of Spring made a deep impression on him. At his father's insistence, Poulenc followed a conventional school career, studying at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris rather than at a music conservatory. In 1916 a childhood friend, Raymonde Linossier, introduced Poulenc to Adrienne Monnier's bookshop, the Maison des Amis des Livres. There he met the avant-garde poets Max Jacob, Paul Éluard and Louis Aragon, he set many of their poems to music. In the same year he became the pupil of the pianist Ricardo Viñes.
The biographer Henri Hell comments that Viñes's influence on his pupil was profound, both as to pianistic technique and the style of Poulenc's keyboard works. Poulenc said of Viñes: He was a most delightful man, a bizarre hidalgo with enormous moustachios, a flat-brimmed sombrero in the purest Spanish style, button boots which he used to rap my shins when I didn't change the pedalling enough.... I admired him madly, because, at this time, in 1914, he was the only virtuoso who played Debussy and Ravel; that meeting with Viñes was paramount in my life: I owe him everything... In reality it is to Viñes that I owe my fledgling efforts in music and everything I know about the piano; when Poulenc was sixteen his mother died. Viñes became more than a teacher: he was, in the words of Myriam Chimènes in the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the young man's "spiritual mentor", he encouraged his pupil to compose, he gave the premieres of three early Poulenc works. Through him Poulenc became friendly with two composers who helped shape his early development: Georges Auric and Erik Satie.
Auric, the same age as Poulenc, was an early developer musically. The two young composers shared a similar musical outlook and enthusiasms, for the rest of Poulenc's life Auric was his most trusted friend and guide. Poulenc called him "my true brother in spirit". Satie, an eccentric figure, isolated from the mainstream French musical establishment, was a mentor to several rising young composers, including Auric, Louis Durey and Arthur Honegger. After dismissing Poulenc as a bourgeois amateur, he relented and admitted him to the circle of protégés, whom he called "Les Nouveaux Jeunes". Poulenc described Satie's influence on him as "immediate and wide, on both the spiritual and musical planes"; the pianist Alfred Cortot commented that Poulenc's Trois mouvements perpétuels were "reflections of the ironical outlook of Satie adapted to the sensitive standards of the
Achille-Claude Debussy was a French composer. He is sometimes seen as the first Impressionist composer, he was among the most influential composers of the late early 20th centuries. Born to a family of modest means and little cultural involvement, Debussy showed enough musical talent to be admitted at the age of ten to France's leading music college, the Conservatoire de Paris, he studied the piano, but found his vocation in innovative composition, despite the disapproval of the Conservatoire's conservative professors. He took many years to develop his mature style, was nearly 40 when he achieved international fame in 1902 with the only opera he completed, Pelléas et Mélisande. Debussy's orchestral works include Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune and Images, his music was to a considerable extent a reaction against the German musical tradition. He regarded the classical symphony as obsolete and sought an alternative in his "symphonic sketches", La mer, his piano works include two of Études. Throughout his career he wrote mélodies including his own.
He was influenced by the Symbolist poetic movement of the 19th century. A small number of works, including the early La Damoiselle élue and the late Le Martyre de saint Sébastien have important parts for chorus. In his final years, he focused on chamber music, completing three of six planned sonatas for different combinations of instruments. With early influences including Russian and far-eastern music, Debussy developed his own style of harmony and orchestral colouring, derided – and unsuccessfully resisted – by much of the musical establishment of the day, his works have influenced a wide range of composers including Béla Bartók, Olivier Messiaen, George Benjamin, the jazz pianist and composer Bill Evans. Debussy died from cancer at his home in Paris at the age of 55 after a composing career of a little more than 30 years. Debussy was born on 22 August 1862 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Seine-et-Oise, on the north-west fringes of Paris, he was the eldest of the five children of Manuel-Achille Debussy and his wife, Victorine, née Manoury.
Debussy senior ran his wife was a seamstress. The shop was unsuccessful, closed in 1864. Manuel worked in a printing factory. In 1870, to escape the Siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War, Debussy's pregnant mother took him and his sister Adéle to their paternal aunt's home in Cannes, where they remained until the following year. During his stay in Cannes, the seven-year-old Debussy had his first piano lessons. Manuel Debussy joined the forces of the Commune. Among his fellow Communard prisoners was a musician. Sivry's mother, Antoinette Mauté de Fleurville, gave piano lessons, at his instigation the young Debussy became one of her pupils. Debussy's talents soon became evident, in 1872, aged ten, he was admitted to the Conservatoire de Paris, where he remained a student for the next eleven years, he first joined the piano class of Antoine François Marmontel, studied solfège with Albert Lavignac and composition with Ernest Guiraud, harmony with Émile Durand, organ with César Franck. The course included music history and theory studies with Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray, but it is not certain that Debussy, apt to skip classes attended these.
At the Conservatoire, Debussy made good progress. Marmontel said of him "A charming child, a artistic temperament. Another teacher was less impressed: Emile Durand wrote in a report "Debussy would be an excellent pupil if he were less sketchy and less cavalier." A year he described Debussy as "desperately careless". In July 1874 Debussy received the award of deuxième accessit for his performance as soloist in the first movement of Chopin's Second Piano Concerto at the Conservatoire's annual competition, he was a fine pianist and an outstanding sight reader, who could have had a professional career had he wished, but he was only intermittently diligent in his studies. He advanced to premier accessit in 1875 and second prize in 1877, but failed at the competitions in 1878 and 1879; these failures made him ineligible to continue in the Conservatoire's piano classes, but he remained a student for harmony, solfège and composition. With Marmontel's help Debussy secured a summer vacation job in 1879 as resident pianist at the Château de Chenonceau, where he acquired a taste for luxury, to remain with him all his life.
His first compositions date from this period, two settings of poems by Alfred de Musset: "Ballade à la lune" and "Madrid, princesse des Espagnes". The following year he secured a job as pianist in the household of Nadezhda von Meck, the patroness of Tchaikovsky, he travelled with her family for the summers of 1880 to 1882, staying at various places in France and Italy, as well as at her home in Moscow. He composed his Piano Trio in G major for von Meck's ensemble, made a transcription for piano duet of three dances from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. At the end of 1880 Debussy, while continuing in his studies at the Conservatoire, was engaged as accompanist for Marie Moreau-Sainti's singing class. Among the members of th
Albert Charles Paul Marie Roussel was a French composer. He spent seven years as a midshipman, turned to music as an adult, became one of the most prominent French composers of the interwar period, his early works were influenced by the impressionism of Debussy and Ravel, while he turned toward neoclassicism. Born in Tourcoing, Roussel's earliest interest was not in music but mathematics, he spent time in the French Navy, in 1889 and 1890, he served on the crew of the frigate Iphigénie and spent several years in Cochin, China. These travels affected him artistically, as many of his musical works would reflect his interest in far-off, exotic places. After resigning from the Navy in 1894, he began to study harmony in Roubaix, first with Julien Koszul, who encouraged him to pursue his formation in Paris with Eugène Gigout continued his studies until 1908 at the Schola Cantorum de Paris where one of his teachers was Vincent d'Indy. While studying, he taught, his students included Edgard Varèse. See: List of music students by teacher: R to S#Albert Roussel.
During World War I, he served as an ambulance driver on the Western Front. Following the war, he bought a summer house in Normandy and devoted most of his time there to composition. Starting in 1923, another of Roussel's students was Bohuslav Martinů, who dedicated his Serenade for Chamber Orchestra to Roussel, his sixtieth birthday was marked by a series of three concerts of his works in Paris that included the performance of a collection of piano pieces, Homage to Albert Roussel, written by several composers, including Ibert and Honegger. Roussel died in the village of Royan, in western France, in 1937, was buried in the churchyard of Saint Valery in Varengeville-sur-Mer. By temperament Roussel was predominantly a classicist. While his early work was influenced by impressionism in music, he arrived at a personal style, more formal in design, with a strong rhythmic drive, with a more distinct affinity for functional tonality than is found in the work of his more famous contemporaries Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky.
Roussel's training at the Schola Cantorum, with its emphasis on rigorous academic models such as Palestrina and Bach, left its mark on his mature style, characterized by contrapuntal textures. On the whole Roussel's orchestration is rather heavy compared to the subtle and nuanced style of other French composers like Debussy or, Gabriel Fauré, he preserved something of the romantic aesthetic in his orchestral works, this sets him apart from Stravinsky and Les Six. However, Roussel's music can hardly be called heavy when compared with the sound of the German romantic orchestral tradition represented by Anton Bruckner and Gustav Mahler, he was interested in jazz. This interest led to his writing a piano-vocal composition entitled Jazz dans la nuit, similar in its inspiration to other jazz-inspired works such as the second movement of Ravel's Violin Sonata, or Milhaud's La création du monde. Roussel's most important works were the ballets Le festin de l'araignée, Bacchus et Ariane, Aeneas and the four symphonies, of which the Third in G minor, the Fourth in A major, are regarded and epitomize his mature neoclassical style.
His other works include numerous ballets, orchestral suites, a piano concerto, a concertino for cello and orchestra, a psalm setting for chorus and orchestra, incidental music for the theatre, much chamber music, solo piano music, songs. In 1929, one French critic, Henry Prunières, described Roussel's search for his own voice: Albert Roussel for a long period sought his true self among varied and contradictory influences, he seemed to waver between the tendencies of Cesar Franck and Vincent d'Indy and those of Claude Debussy. The violin sonata, the trio, the Poème de la Forêt derived more or less directly from the Franckian school, the Festin de l'Araignée and the Evocations from Debussyan impressionism. With Padmâvatî, the new Roussel begins to realize his possibilities and his individual technique... Came works of perfect homogeneity and notable originality; the composer no longer is seeking his way — he has found it. The Prélude pour une Fête de Printemps, the suite in F, the concerto, the Psalm No. 80 are the masterpieces which mark the last stage of this great artist.
Arturo Toscanini included the suite from the ballet Le festin de l'araignée in one of his broadcast concerts with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Rene Leibowitz recorded that suite in 1952 with the Paris Philharmonic, Georges Prêtre recorded it with the Orchestre National de France for EMI in 1984. One brief assessment of his career says: Roussel will never attain the popularity of Debussy or Ravel, as his work lacks sensuous appeal....yet he was an important and compelling French composer. Upon repeated listening, his music becomes more and more intriguing because of its subtle rhythmic vitality, he can be alternately brilliant, tender, biting and humorous. His splendid Suite for Piano shows his mastery of old dance forms; the ballet scores Le Festin de l'araignée and Bacchus et Ariane are vibrant and pictorial, while the Third and Fourth Symphonies are among the finest contributions to the French symphony. One 21st-century critic, in the course of discussing the Third Symphony, wrote: For the general public, Roussel remains famous, his work just beyond the pool of repertory universally drawn from.