The liner notes for this release make the argument that French modernist Albert Roussel was the greatest composer of his time. It is an argument Christoph Eschenbach and the Orchestre de Paris do much to advance in these live performances. Coupling Le Festin de l'araignée from 1912 and the Symphony No. 3 from 1930, Eschenbach and the Parisian orchestra give Roussel's music the kind of clear-eyed, strong-willed performances that make the most of the composer's best features. Though distinctly of its prewar time, Le Festin de l'araignée nevertheless sounds brightly colorful, lightly ironic, and surprisingly inventive in this smoothly polished and vigorously rhythmic performance. The postwar Third Symphony sounds both of and above its time here, its angular themes, gleaming colors, and muscular rhythms brilliantly brought out by the German conductor and the French orchestra. If Eschenbach and the Parisian musicians' racing finale for the symphony, with its relentless polyrhythms, doesn't get your heart pumping, consult a doctor immediately. Recorded in vibrant live sound complete with appreciative applause, these performances may well convince the listener that Roussel is indeed underrated.
Roussel: Symphony No. 3; Le Festin de l'araignée Review
by James Leonard