Debussy: Images; Jeux; Nocturnes; La mer; Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune; Marche écossaise; Printemps; L’Enfant prodigue (Prélude; Cortège et Air de danse); Berceuse héroïque

Reviewed on Fri 28 Jun, 2013

Stéphane Denève's seven-year tenure with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra culminated in this absorbing, painstakingly prepared Debussy survey, recorded with sumptuous, wide-ranging fidelity and boasting orchestral playing of heartwarming application and conspicuous poise. Indeed, Denève conducts with enormous perception throughout, always acutely appreciative of the music's myriad inner workings, and achieving a luminosity of texture and precision of mood that consistently ignite the imagination. Add to this a tingling spontaneity, soaring poetic instinct and tangible ardour, and you have a set of classy, outstandingly communicative performances to stand alongside those from such greats in this intoxicating repertoire as Coppola, Cantelli, Ansermet, Monteux, Martinon, Boulez and Haitink. Among the many stand-out items, I was especially transported by Denève's Images (the scented middle portion of “Ibéria” is so bewitchingly sultry), Nocturnes (a wonderfully atmospheric “Nuages”) and La mer (both magnificently cogent and thrillingly elemental). Truth to tell, though, there isn't a single dud anywhere, and everyone involved should be very proud of their collective achievement.
–Andrew Achenbach