Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire & Pascal Rophé – Dukas – Roussel (2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 59:40 minutes | 965 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © BIS
Under its music director Pascal Rophé, l’Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire (ONPL) here performs two great orchestral spectaculars of French music – scintillating and imaginative scores composed only 15 years apart. A perennial favorite, Paul Dukas’ symphonic poem The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1897) became a ‘hit’ with the general public after being included in the soundtrack of the Disney animation film Fantasia in 1940. In the work, based on a ballad by Goethe, Dukas displayed an extraordinary command of the large late-Romantic orchestra as he depicted the disastrous consequences when a young apprentice tries to work the magic charms of his master. In 1912, when Albert Roussel composed his ballet score The Spider’s Feast, he was rather influenced by Impressionism, but his use of the orchestra was no less inventive than Dukas. The plot of the ballet is played out in a garden where a spider is trapping various insects in its net looking forward to having a sumptuous meal. Roussel’s sophisticated use of timbres and his characteristic rhythmic pointillism conjures a micro-drama which also features a mayfly, a team of ants and a rather terrifying pair of praying mantises. The album opens with another piece by Dukas: Polyeucte, a concert overture inspired by a 17th century play and a work of a surprising expressive power.
You would think it was the opening of a German-language romantic drama. In fact, this was exactly the criticism aimed at Paul Dukas after his creation of Polyeucte – Ouverture pour une tragédie de Corneille at the Concerts Lamoureux in 1892: not very ars gallica at all. This great score does indeed employ a lyricism which the Bayreuth cantor has led us to associate with the forests of German legend — not with Corneille’s alexandrine. Thus, the desolate tonality of the first few measures, a brilliant unison of violas and cellos, has both the sobriety and the emphasis of a Wagnerian leitmotif. It’s a shame that this work, a masterclass in harmonies and orchestration, is so rarely played in concert — L’Apprenti Sorcier on the other hand, last on this tracklist, had the good fortune of receiving a large part of Dukas’ production as well as a cinematographic boost with Disney’s Fantasia.
The National Orchestra of the Pays de la Loire and their conductor Pascal Rophé continue their exploration of works from the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with a score certainly very French at first glance: Albert Roussel’s ballet Le Festin de l’araignée (The Spider’s Feast) composed in 1913 just before Debussy’s Jeux. An opulent piece of music, it transports the listener… to a patch of grass: the luxuriance of the bells, often treated as a solo act, serves as a microscope to the mysterious world of our gardens. Inspired by the Souvenirs entomologiques (Entomological memoirs) by Jean-Henri Fabre, this pantomime with an enchanting prelude tells the story of a tiny spider who’s daily life ends in tragedy.
From one inspiration (Corneille) to another (Fabre then Goethe), Pascal Rophé leads his orchestra as if they were playing an altogether contemporary work: with the precision of a goldsmith. The music label, Bis, is doing beautiful work here, in both the choice of music and the artistic direction. – Elsa Siffert
01. Polyeucte Overture
02. Le festin de l’araignée, Op. 17, L. 19: I. Prélude. Un jardin
03. Le festin de l’araignée, Op. 17, L. 19: II. Entrée des fourmis
04. Le festin de l’araignée, Op. 17, L. 19: IIIa. Entrée des bousiers
05. Le festin de l’araignée, Op. 17, L. 19: IIIb. Danse du papillon
06. Le festin de l’araignée, Op. 17, L. 19: IV. Danse de l’araignée
07. Le festin de l’araignée, Op. 17, L. 19: V. Entrée des vers de fruit
08. Le festin de l’araignée, Op. 17, L. 19: VI. Entrée guerrière de deux mantes religieuses
09. Le festin de l’araignée, Op. 17, L. 19: VII. Danse de l’araignée
10. Le festin de l’araignée, Op. 17, L. 19: VIII. Eclosion de l’éphémère
11. Le festin de l’araignée, Op. 17, L. 19: IX. Danse de l’éphémère
12. Le festin de l’araignée, Op. 17, L. 19: X. Danse de l’éphémère et des vers de fruit
13. Le festin de l’araignée, Op. 17, L. 19: XI. Agonie de l’araignée
14. Le festin de l’araignée, Op. 17, L. 19: XII. Funérailles de l’éphémère
15. L’apprenti sorcier
Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire
Pascal Rophé, conductor