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Name of Work

Roussel, Albert (1869-1937)
Serenade, Op. 30 for cello, violin, viola, harp, flute

Movements:
Allegro
Andante
Presto

Performances:


Oct 21, 2007



Mathieu Dufour, Flute
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Yukiko Ogura, Viola
Katinka Kleijn, Cello
Yumiko Endo Schlaffer, Harp


Oct 22, 2007



Mathieu Dufour, Flute
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Yukiko Ogura, Viola
Katinka Kleijn, Cello
Yumiko Endo Schlaffer, Harp

ROUSSEL-Serenade for Flute, Harp, Violin, Viola and Cello, Op. 30

Composed in 1925.

Premiered on October 15, 1925 in Paris.

BACKGROUND
Albert Roussel, a leading figure in French music during the years between the Wars, was orphaned at an early age and raised first by his grandfather, the mayor of his native town of Tourcoing, at the Belgian border thirty miles from the North Sea, and later by a maternal aunt. Though he showed musical promise as a boy, Roussel decided upon a naval career, and he was admitted to the École Navale as a cadet in 1887. The duty and travels of military life did nothing to diminish his interest in music, however, and in 1894, he resigned his naval commission to devote himself to the study of composition.

After several years of private tuition and some tentative creative undertakings, he enrolled in 1898 in Vincent d'Indy's Schola Cantorum, recently formed as a rival to the venerable Paris Conservatoire, to begin an imposing ten-year curriculum, which he saw to completion. Roussel was appointed to teach the counterpoint class at the Schola beginning in 1902, and he remained in that post for the next dozen years; Eric Satie and Edgar Varèse were among his pupils. By the time that he finally completed his studies at the Schola, in 1908, Roussel had already written several large works, including his First Symphony.

In 1909, Roussel went on an extended tour of India and Southeast Asia. His music was deeply affected by that exotic experience, and two of the works that first brought him wide attention (the orchestral suite Evocations and the opéra-ballet Padmâvatî) were based on Hindu legends and employed Indian musical motifs. With the outbreak of World War I, Roussel sought re-admission to the armed forces, and, after a period as an ambulance driver, he was taken into the artillery corps. Following the war, he lived on the coast in Brittany and later in Normandy, where, despite persistent health problems, he produced a succession of major scores. His eminent position in French cultural life was recognized by a week-long festival of his music in Paris in 1929 to celebrate his sixtieth birthday.

He visited the United States the following year for the premiere of his Third Symphony, commissioned for the fiftieth anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Roussel's life-long interest in music education was reflected in the composition that he left unfinished at his death, in 1937: a large theatrical piece involving workers' choral groups.

MUSIC
Roussel's Serenade for Flute, Harp and String Trio, composed in 1925 for the noted flutist and Paris Conservatoire faculty member René Le Roy, draws a luminous and widely varied range of instrumental colors from its modest ensemble. The opening movement is an ingenious construction loosely modeled on traditional sonata form: the first half of the movement comprises three themes and their brief developments -- a lyrical, arching flute strain; a jaunty tune in quick notes, also begun by the flute; and a march-like, snapping-rhythm viola melody played staccato -- each given at a progressively faster tempo (Allegro -- Poco più mosso [a little more motion] -- Allegro molto). The sequence, modified in its details, is reiterated as a recapitulation before the movement comes to an excited close (Presto) with a coda based on the march-like motive.

The Andante, suspended upon a long winding melody for the flute in its outer sections and another one for the cello at its center, is languid, sensuous and a little mysterious, a reminiscence of the Orientalism that Roussel was fond of evoking in his works of the 1920s. The finale is a vibrant and tensely rhythmic dance for which the viola's poignant and expansive theme at the center of the movement provides formal contrast and expressive balance.

Program notes by Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Performance date: October 21 & 22, 2007



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