1906: Roussel: Symphony No. 1 in D minor (The poem of the forest), age 37

Charles Dutoit

1. Forêt d’hiver
2. Renouveau
3. Soir d’été
4. Faunes et dryades

    Instruments:

    • piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons
    • 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba
    • timbales, 2 harps
    • strings

    Le poème de la forêt remains Roussel’s least-known symphony and was composed piecemeal during 1904-1906, forming a seasonal woodland cycle of winter to autumn.

    Forced by ill-health to give up his naval career at 25, Roussel’s late start as a composer is well known. Touching the preliminaries with Eugène Gigout, he began studies with Vincent d’Indy in 1898 at the latter’s newly founded Schola Cantorum, where he faced a dauntingly thorough course which would occupy him for a decade. D’Indy was quick to recognize ability, appointing Roussel professor of counterpoint in 1902, and acknowledging him as a creative artist.

    When d’Indy received the symphonic poem Renouveau in 1905, he remarked to Marcel Labey, “Roussel has sent me an utterly delightful orchestral piece that is still in progress; if he weren’t so distrustful of himself and could really let himself go, he could do some quite splendid things!” Such lack of confidence is difficult to credit, given the expressive power of works such as Résurrection (1903), a “symphonic prelude” after Tolstoy’s novel, or the high finish, originality, surefire verve, and glowing tonal palette of the Divertissement for piano and winds, composed in 1906, as he was engaged with his Symphony No. 1.

    The work’s premiere was given at the Concerts Populaires in Brussels on March 22, 1908, conducted by Sylvain Dupuis. D’Indy led the Paris premiere on February 7, 1909, with the Lamoureux Orchestra.

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