Images (3), for orchestra, L. 122
- Jeux, ballet, L. 126 (18:26)
- La plus que lente, waltz for piano (or orchestra), L. 121 (06:31)
Since he became the music director and conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas has largely focused his attention on presenting the symphonies of Gustav Mahler in splendid audiophile recordings, for which he has received critical and popular praise. So his first hybrid SACD of works by Claude Debussy comes as a surprise, not only because the sound world is quite different from Mahler's, but Tilson Thomas' interest in Debussy has seemed less obsessive over the years. However, if this 2016 album of "Images pour orchestre," the ballet "Jeux," and "La plus que lente" suggests anything, it's that Tilson Thomas loves this richly evocative music just as much as he does Mahler's, and this could be the start of a similarly exquisite series of recordings. The conductor's interpretive insight and attention to detail are evident, and the San Francisco Symphony shimmers with exotic tone colors and luscious textures, so the combination of Tilson Thomas' meticulous conducting and the musicians' versatility yields a magical recording that is a showcase for what they can do. Recommended tracks for sampling are the opening of "Images," which is one of the most recognizably "impressionist" passages in Debussy's works, and the opening of "Jeux," which has a similar feeling of mystery and atmosphere, though listeners should also try the waltz, "La plus que lente," which is something of a rarity in the orchestral version.