Composer of 'R'

Jean Roger-Ducasse (1873-1954)

A French composer and an educator. Formal name is Jean Jules Aimable Roger-Ducasse. He was born in Bordeaux on the 18th of April in 1873. After a basic musical education in his birthplace, he moved to Paris in 1892 and entered Paris Conservatory to study music under Emile Pessard, Gabriel Fauré, and Andre Gédalge. He was particularly influenced by Faure. After the three years of trials, he obtained the second prize of Prix de Rome in 1902 with his cantata "Alcyone". Then he succeeded the position, from Fauré, of the professor of composition class in Paris Conservatory. Later on, he also succeeded Paul Dukas's orchestration class in 1935 (because of the former professor's death). From 1909, he was appointed as the director of the department of singing in Paris educational committee. His compositional diction can be characterized as typical latter romantic idiom inheriting his teachers (such as G. Fauré or C. Saint-Saëns) dictions with hints of impressionistic colorations in harmonic content. He died in Taillan on the 19th of September in 1954. (2003© K.S. )

Main Works

Stage Works Alcyone Alcyone (1902)
Orphee orphée (1913)
CanteGril Cantegril (pub. 1931)
Orchestral French Suite suite français (1907)
Small Suite petite suite (1900?)
Prelude to a Ballet prélude d'un ballet (1910)
French March marche française (1914)
Spring Nocturne nocturne de printemps (1920)
Wedding Song epithalame (1923)
Chamber Violin Sonata sonate pour vilon et piano (1896)
String Quartet No.1 quatuor à cordes (1909) <2vln, vla, vc>
Pastorale pastorale (1909)
Piano Quartet quartuor pour piano et trio à cordes (1912?)
String Quartet No.2 quatuor à cordes No.2 (1912-1952) <2vln, vla, vc>
Piano Six Preludes six préludes (1907)
Four Etude quatre études (1915)
Etude for Sixth étude en sixtes (1916)
Arabesques arabesques... (1917)
Sketches esquisses (1917)
Rhythms rythmes (1917)
Arabesques No.2 arabesques No.2 (1919)
Sailor's Song No.3 3e barcarolle (1921)
Songs White Hymn hymne blanc (1895)
A Garden of Marguerite au jardin de Marguerite (1901-1905)
Sarabande sarabande (1910)
Ulysse and the Sirens Ulysse et les sirènes (1937)
Unclear Two Rondels of François Villon deux rondels de Villon (1897- )
Pieces of Water pièces d'eau (-)
Christmans of Roses noël de roses (1903)
Sailor's Song barcarolle (1906)
Ave Regina ave regina (1911)
Three Motets trois motets (1911)
Assignment for Taking Scores ecole de la dictée (1910/1937)

Roger-Ducasse Disc Review

"Orchestral Works Vol. 1 :
Marche Française / Nocturne de Printemps / Petite Suite / Le Joli Jeu de Furet / Orphée" (Marco Polo : 8.223501)

Leif Segerstam (cond) Rheinland-Pfaltz Philharmonic
Sadly, the available recording alternates of Roger-Ducasse are extremely few. If you intend to listen his works by a CD in full of his compositions, all that you can easily find are these two volume of his orchestral works or piano works plus string quartet from Mandala. Therefore, these Marco-Polo discs provide valuable oppotunity to know his rough feature of compositional diction. Ducasse's compositions put on typical Belle-Epoque-like modest/witty atmosphere. Although you can easily catch some impressionistic coloration in harmonic content, basically his works can be mainly located in as one of the followers of traditional latter romantic idiom (I used to call that is 'a typical modest modernist'). The performers are the most frequently featured conductor/orchestra of Marco-Polo. Although it is hard to find their great performances, still I can say they are one of the most stable orchestra of the label.

"Orchestral Works Vol. 2 :
Epithalame / Au Jardin de Marguerite / Suite Française / Prélude d'un Ballet" (Marco Polo : 8.223641)

Leif Segerstam (cond) Rheinland-Pfaltz Philharmonic
It is truly a shame to see the situation that many (relatively minor) French composers are still ignored by French labels although many English composers have 'come to life' already thanks to the major English labels such as Chandos or Hyperion. In fact we can purchase Ducasse's orchestral works only from Maro-Polo (German label) in spite of the composer's nationality. It is usually said that his compositions are influenced strongly by Fauré. However, the asceticistic mood that latter fauré's have, can not be heard strongly in his coloration of harmonies or sweetness in melodies. The sound insists stronger influence of Massenet or Gounod . Even though his works mainly belong to 'modest modernism' idiom, you can hear some impressinistic harmony so that they are still enjoyable for Debussians or Ravelians for a bit. If you would like to purchase one at first, I recommend this volume as the first choice. Because this one includes slightly better compositions with slightly better performances.

"Quartuor à Cordes en Re majeur No.2" (Mandala : MAN 4934)
Quatuor Loewenguth : Alfred Loewenguth, Maurice Fueri (vln) Roger Roche (vla) Pierre Basseux (vc)
His second quartet was started to write in 1912. He seems to have thought the quartet was yet to be completed for many years, such that he confessed Isidor Philip that 'this is the third time that I have started to re-write the finale'. After all, more than fourty years had passed when he could think it was finished (he commented like that in the letter to his mother in Nov. 1952).Except the second one, all movements are longer than 10 minutes. Although the diction is strongly based on german-centric romantic idiom, freely expanded key changes and particularly strong accent arrangements demonstrate that the quartet is one from modern era. He should have taken special care to let the listeners to enjoy the lengthy movements without feeling dull, this quartet sounds most interesting in its rhythmic content. We can easily remind the same tendency can be found on Schmitt's quartet (written in 1948). The quartet resembles this considerably not only in the length but the amount of recordings (both of them have just one recordings because of the difficulty or length). If their was any possibility that Ducasse had inspired Schmitt's one by hearing it in any occasion, that should be interesting aspect to understand the charm of this quartet. The recording was done in February 1954, Paris. The occasion was the premier of the work. About 4 month before the composer's death. Although the pitch control is worse than now, they perform in strong sympathy.

"Arabesques / Sonorités / 3e Barcarolle / Six Préludes / Étude en Sixtes / Quatre Études Rythmes" (Mandala - Harmonia Mundi : MAN 5011 / HMCD 78)
Dominique Merlet (piano)
Chances are extremely slim to find Roger-Ducasse recordings except marco-Polo two volumes of orchestral works (they are easy to be purchased though). This is one of the rare exception. The performer is a famous professor of Paris Conservatory. The reason that he come to have some interest in Ducasse seems to be because of his grand father who had a lifelong relationship with the composer. Mr.Merlet himself also has once visited the composer's house (in Taillan) when he was 9 year's old. The content can be characterized as 'fairly technical Salon music'. High tendency in mode usage with chromaticism by bewildering key changes include some relatively newer nuances (comparing with the composers of the traditional latter romantic era) but the constructions of the tunes themselves are still in traditional romantic idiom. If I should describe that by use of the composers names, you may easily understand the atmosphere in case I refer riffy Albéniz or weaker colored Ravel. Needles to say it is fairly difficult to recommend this to impressionistic music lovers, unless the person's favor widely covers the latter romantic era.

(2001.12.01 last updated: English Trans. 2003. 6. 22)