Albert ROUSSEL: Symphonies, Suites – Paul Paray/ Leonard Bernstein/Andre Cluytens/Herbert von Karajan – Praga Digitals 

Albert ROUSSEL: Suite in F; Symphony No. 3; Bacchus et Ariane, Suite No. 2; Symphonie No. 4 – Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Paul Paray/New York Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein/Orchestre de la Societe du Conservatoire de Paris/Andre Cluytens/Philharmonia Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan – Praga Digitals PRD 350 138, 79:59, (9/08/17) ****:

A fine compilation of this somewhat obscure composer’s best.

Albert Roussel was one of those composers whose innovation and skill was greater than his name recognition. Roussel was an eclectic writer whose music—while not all ‘signature’—is trapped in a gray area in between the late Romantic worlds of some countrymen such as Dukas and Bizet and the Impressionist realm of Debussy and Ravel. Perhaps even more interestingly, some of his music actually sounds ahead of its time with moments of orchestration and harmony that seem to presage Prokofiev or early Kabalevsky.

This is a nice, if not a bit odd, compilation of what are Roussel’s arguably best-known works, and—the odd part—released as remasterings of signature recordings by the four orchestras and conductors within. Actually, although the compilation is a bit of pot-pourri, one good reason to acquire this well engineered disc is to have recordings by orchestras and the conductors who in most ways remain the name most associated with those orchestras. Additionally, the Roussel works have been fairly often recorded but these recordings remain in many ways “the one” for these works.

For most listeners, the Symphony No. 3 and the Suites from the theatre work Bacchus et Ariane are Roussel’s best known works. Though the Suite en Fa is perhaps not a monumental work, it was a pleasant surprise; I personally liked the Symphony No. 4. I do recommend this disc for the novelty aspects of some of Roussel’s work, a chance to get to know these pieces.  Also, this is a terrific opportunity to hear Bernstein in New York, Karajan with the Philharmonia, Cluytens with the Paris Conservatory and Detroit under Paul Paray.

Congratulations to Praga for making these recordings available and in such a sonically delightful way.

—Daniel Coombs

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