Philharmonia Orchestra London / Charles Dutoit
With the inclusion of Charles Dutoit and Véronique Gens, the programme of the Philharmonia Orchestra is a wonderful tribute to French sensuality and elegance. In Images, Debussy brings to life imaginary landscapes representing the Scotland, Spain and France of the Middle Ages. The music displays unparalleled freshness and liveliness. Its atmospheric diversity ranges from lonely sadness to rollicking joviality and glistening brightness. Jeux, Debussy’s final orchestral work, is an extraordinary piece. Debussy refrained from using tangible themes and motifs and succeeded in creating a constantly shifting fabric of flowing lightness. The orchestral sound achieves a level of brightness, suppleness and seductiveness which is rarely heard in his earlier works. Ernest Chausson, one of the greatest talents of French music, was a close friend of Debussy until his untimely death. A main feature of his work is the dull sense of melancholy which also marks Chausson’s Poem of Love and the Sea. As a contrast, Ravel’s La Valse, an orchestral tour de force as an homage to the Viennese waltz, increases the level of unsure gaiety only to end in a sense of downfall. With Charles Dutoit, the Philharmonia Orchestra is led by one of the most competent champions of the “French” orchestral sound. The young and phenomenal soprano Véronique Gens is known in Berlin most of all for her performance in Debussy’s Pelleas and Melisande at the Deutsche Oper.