Roussel: Chamber music (complete)

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Roussel
LABELS: Olympia
WORKS: Chamber music (complete)
PERFORMER: Schoenberg Quartet, etc
CATALOGUE NO: OCD 706 ABC
Olympia’s three-disc survey of Albert Roussel’s complete chamber music is a useful, yet not altogether successful attempt at bringing these works before a wider audience. The performances, though sufficiently accomplished to enable these often unfamiliar works to create a reasonable impression at first hearing, are hardly top-drawer, and almost all have circulated previously on Olympia, the exceptions being the excerpts from the poème radiophonique Elpénor and the Aria No. 2 for oboe and piano. Neither justifies the purchase of the complete set, though Jean-Jacques Kantorow contributes impressive readings of the two Violin Sonatas, and the Schoenberg Quartet’s performance of Roussel’s Op. 45 String Quartet is the only credible version presently available.

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The Op. 2 Piano Trio is an attractive work, and decently played here, as is the String Trio of 1937. As to the remainder, it’s hardly stimulating fare; Pipe, for piccolo and piano, is an inane 57-second study, originally for shepherd’s pipe or recorder, and the kind of thing you’ll hardly want to hear again, while the risible Duo for bassoon and bass outstays its welcome in well under five minutes. On balance, most of these performances aren’t strong enough to withstand detailed scrutiny, but given that there’s little enough by this composer on disc, there’s probably room on somebody’s shelves for this set. Disappointing. Michael Jameson