Albert Roussel Biography
His interest in music was secondary to his interest in mathematics, early in life, and in addition he prepared for a career in the navy; in 1889 and 1890 he served on the crew of the frigate Iphigénie in the waters around Indochina. Apparently it was this voyage which was most signifcant in his development as a composer, since for the remainder of his life he attempted to capture some of the character of the exotic places he visited in his music. After resigning from the Navy in 1894 he began to study music seriously, continuing his studies until 1907 (one of his teachers was Vincent D'Indy). While studying, he was also busy teaching; his students included Satie and the young Edgar Varèse.
Following the war, he moved to Normandy, where he devoted most of his time to composition.
Roussel was by temperament a classicist. While his early work is strongly influenced by impressionism, he eventually found a personal style which was more formal in design, with a strong rhythmic drive, and with a more distinct liking for functional tonality than is evident in the work of his more famous contemporaries (for instance Debussy, Ravel, Satie, and Stravinsky). While he has been criticized for his heavy orchestrational style, that may be due to an expected similarity to the subtle and nuanced style of his countrymen, an aesthetic which he did not fully share; compared to the lush German romantic orchestral tradition, it could hardly be called heavy at all.
Roussel was also interested in jazz, and wrote a piano-vocal composition entitled Jazz dans la nuit, which makes an interesting contrast to some of the other jazz-inspired compositions by French composers at the same time (compare it, for example, with the second movement of the Ravel Violin Sonata, or Darius Milhaud's La Creation du Monde).
His works include numerous ballets, four symphonies, orchestral suites, a piano concerto, a concertino for cello and orchestra, incidental music for the theatre, and much chamber music, solo piano music, and songs.
This biography is published under the GNU Licence
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