Symphony No. 3 : Work information

Albert (Charles Paul Marie) Roussel ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Orchestre de Bordeaux-Aquitaine, Roberto Benzi (Conductor)

This work

Work name
Symphony No. 3
Work number
Op. 42
G minor
1930-00-00 02:00:00

This recording

Forlane CI
Ivan Pastor
Jean-Martial Golaz
Recording date
1984-01-01 00:00:00

Track listing

  • Allegro vivo 5:55 min
  • Adagio 10:00 min
  • Vivace 2:56 min
  • Allegro con spirito 5:51 min


Commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Roussel's Third Symphony cemented his reputation as one of the leading French composers of his day. Although embracing the trend of neo-classicism with regards to the formal design of movements, Roussel's personal style didn't reject emotion. On the contrary, he made good use of counterpoint and driving motor rhythms as expressive devices, often creating exciting and thrilling passages, of which there are many in the Third Symphony.

Following the strident Allegro vivo, the long and impassioned Adagio is a contrapuntal tour de force with multiple melodic lines interweaving in a complex chromatic texture. A brief and lively Vivace with flashes of dazzling colour and rhythm provides a lighter interlude before the quicksilver Allegro con spirito brings proceedings to a thrilling close.

The Third Symphony was first performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitsky on 24 October 1930.

The Composers

Albert (Charles Paul Marie) Roussel

Roussel lost both his parents as a child, and so was brought up by his grandfather, mayor of Tourcoing, the town of his birth.  His study of mathematics led to a career in the navy, which he joined in 1889, travelling widely and absorbing much of the Indo-Chinese culture to which he was exposed.  He resigned in 1894 to study music in Paris with Eugene Gigout, entering the Schola Cantorum in 1898.  There he studied under d'Indy until 1907, and his first major works date from this period, while already in his mid-thirties.

From 1902 he had taught counterpoint at the Schola Cantorum, taking leave to revisit India in 1909.  The outbreak of war in 1914 led him to volunteer for conscription, but at 45 he was considered too old and acted instead as an ambulance driver.  After the war he settled in Normandy until his death in 1937.

Originally influenced by French Impressionism, Roussel later came to embrace the prevalent Neo-Classicism with light orchestration, finely-wrought structures and a parallel flirtation with the jazz idiom.