Stéphane Denève / Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Roussel: Symphony No. 4; Rapsodie Flamande; Petite Suite; Sinfonietta

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This fourth and presumably final volume in Stéphane Denève and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra's survey of Albert Roussel's symphonies is quite satisfactory. Denève, a talented and capable conductor, clearly knows and may even love Roussel's music, and his account of the composer's Fourth Symphony is full of energy and strength as well as feeling and sensitivity. The power of the outer Allegros, the unstoppable force of the Scherzo, and the emotional depths of the central Lento molto are all convincingly rendered and are all testimony to Denève's enthusiasm for the French modernist's music. The remaining works on the disc -- the Flemish Rhapsody, Op. 56; the Petite suite, Op. 39; the Concerto pour petit orchestre, Op. 34; and the Sinfonietta, Op. 52 -- are also as persuasively directed, without overloading these lighter works with too much meaning. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, which could hardly have known this music beforehand, plays with polished professionalism and sometimes with surprising passion. Though the composer's fans may already have their favorite performances of the Fourth Symphony, anyone trying Roussel for the first time could do much worse than to start here. Naxos' digital sound is neither as clear nor as clean as it should be; too often the sound obscures the music.

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