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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Albert Roussel; Paul Dukas - Le Festin de l'Araignée; L'Apprenti Sorcier (Pascal Rophé)


Composer: Albert Roussel; Paul Dukas
  • (01) Dukas - Polyeucte, Overture to the tragedy by Pierre Corneille
  • (02) Roussel - Le Festin de l'Araignée, ballet, Op. 17
  • (15) Dukas - L'Apprenti Sorcier, Scherzo for orchestra

Orchestre national des Pays de la Loire
Pascal Rophé, conductor

Date: 2019
Label: BIS Records



The big news here – to me, at least, since I missed this same team’s Dutilleux disc (BIS, 1/16) – is the superb quality of the Loire Orchestra. In the measured opening of Dukas’s Polyeucte Overture, the strings’ suppleness and firm tone immediately immerse one in a darkly radiant (and distinctly Franckian) atmosphere, and in the ensuing Allegro, Pascal Rophé whips up a roiling tempest (echoes of Wagner’s Dutchman here) without any sacrifice in clarity. Indeed, even in the most rhythmically involved and intricately scored passages of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, every last detail is crystal clear – not surprising, perhaps, given that the conductor spent some of his early years working with Boulez and the Ensemble Intercontemporain. He keeps a tight grip on the tempo in the faster sections, lending a sense of inexorability and making sure every off-beat accent is where it’s supposed to be. Listen, say, to the crazily glittering swirls starting at 9'34", where instead of the usual wash of sound one really can hear every note – it’s exquisite.

The orchestra’s performance of Roussel’s ballet The Spider’s Feast is similarly pellucid, revealing all the wonderfully elaborate strands and layers of its piquant scoring. And Rophé is just as meticulous in delineating character as he is in clarifying texture, establishing a thick air of expectation for the hatching of the mayfly, for example, and drawing richly expressive playing from the orchestra when the mayfly expires. There’s abundant charm here, too, as in the graceful phrasing of the little waltz at 1'15" in track 11. Stéphane Denève’s Naxos recording (3/12) is similarly characterful, but to my ears, the Loire Orchestra outshine the RSNO, and BIS’s recorded sound is quite simply spectacular.

-- Andrew Farach-Colton, Gramophone

More reviews:


Albert Roussel (5 April 1869 – 23 August 1937) was a French composer. He spent seven years as a midshipman, turned to music as an adult, and became one of the most prominent French composers of the interwar period. His early works were strongly influenced by the impressionism of Debussy and Ravel, while he later turned toward neoclassicism. He studied with Julien Koszul in Roubaix, with Eugène Gigout in Paris, then continued his studies until 1908 at the Schola Cantorum de Paris where one of his teachers was Vincent d'Indy. While studying, he also taught. His students included Erik Satie and Edgard Varèse.


Paul Dukas (1 October 1865 – 17 May 1935) was a French composer, critic, scholar and teacher. A studious man, of retiring personality, he was intensely self-critical, and he abandoned and destroyed many of his compositions. His best known work is the orchestral piece The Sorcerer's Apprentice (L'apprenti sorcier), the fame of which has eclipsed that of his other surviving works. Among these are the opera Ariane et Barbe-bleue, a symphony, two substantial works for solo piano, and a ballet, La Péri. His compositions were influenced by composers including Beethoven, Berlioz, Franck, d'Indy and Debussy.


Pascal Rophé (born 16 June 1960 in Paris) is a French conductor. Rophé studied at the Conservatoire de Paris and also worked with Pierre Boulez and David Robertson. From 2006 to 2009, Rophé was musical director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège. In September 2014, Rophé became musical director of the Orchestre national des Pays de la Loire. In 2016, he recorded with the orchestra works by Dutilleux to mark the composer's centenary, including Le Loup3 Sonnets de Jean Cassou and Fille du Diable. Rophé was re-appointed as orchestra director in 2017 for three years.


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