Debussy: Images; Jeux; La plus que lente

Reviewed on Thu 12 Jan, 2017

Peerless poise goes hand in hand with a strength of character and almost startling clarity of texture that bring this repertoire to life in the most delectable way imaginable.

Back in the early 1970s, Michael Tilson Thomas set down an uncommonly perceptive set of Debussy's Images at the helm of the Boston Symphony for Deutsche Grammophon. This live remake from May 2014 with MTT's own dazzlingly articulate and responsive San Francisco band is even more compelling. Peerless poise goes hand in hand with a strength of character and almost startling clarity of texture that bring this repertoire to life in the most delectable way imaginable – all achieved without any loss of atmosphere, affectionate warmth or tingling spontaneity. The performance of that elusive dance poem, Jeux, is no less remarkable in its silky refinement, entrancing suppleness and fresh-faced ardour – possibly the finest I've heard since Haitink's classic 1980 account with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Philips). Debussy's own orchestration (complete with cimbalom) of his waltz for piano La plus que lente rounds off proceedings to darkly seductive effect. With state-of-the-art SACD sonics throughout, this superlative anthology can be welcomed with open arms.
–Andrew Achenbach