French composer. One of his most popular works is Le festin de l'araignée/The Spider's Banquet (1912), in which the hungry arachnid is depicted with appropriate, delicate scoring.
He was educated in Paris for the French navy, but took piano lessons at the same time. He wrote his first compositions while engaged in naval service and voyaging to the East, but resigned in 1893 to devote himself to music, studying with Eugène Gigout and Vincent d'Indy. In 1902 he became professor at the Schola Cantorum, where he had studied. In World War I, he served with the Red Cross and later with the transport service, and in 1918 he retired, broken in health, to Perros-Guirec in Brittany and in 1920 to a villa near Varengeville.
His naval service in the East had a lasting impression on Roussel, colouring his finest work, the opéra-ballet Padmâvatî with Indian melodic patterns. Ballet and choral singing are found also in La naissance de la lyre, an evocation of ancient Greece. Other characteristics of Roussel's varying style appear in his third symphony, which includes polytonality and vital rhythmic patterns.
WorksStage opera Padmâvatî (1923); ballets Le Festin de l'araignée (1913), Bacchus et Ariane (1931).
Vocal and orchestral four symphonies, 1908–34; Suite en Fa (1927); sinfonietta for strings; concertino for cello and orchestra (1936).
Chamber and songs serenade for flute, violin, viola, cello, and harp (1925); string trio, trios for violin, clarinet, and piano and for flute, violin, and clarinet; Joueurs de flûte for flute and piano; Impromptu for harp; suite, sonatina, and other pieces for piano; songs.