DEBUSSY Jeux / Khamma
La Boite A Joujoux
BIS 2162 / *****
The Singapore Symphony Orchestra's second all-Debussy recording conducted by Music Director Lan Shui is an even greater success than its first (La Mer and Images For Orchestra), and that is partly down to its rarity value. All three works come from the later years of French impressionist composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918), and are ballets not often heard in concerts or recordings.
Perhaps the most familiar is Jeux (1912-13), a frolicsome ménage-a-trois between two girls and a boy in a game of tennis, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russes. The music is also among Debussy's finest, even if the themes are elusive on first listening.
Debussy did not survive to complete the orchestrations of the other two ballets, which were originally scripted as piano solos. La Boite A Joujoux (1913) or The Toybox is a children's ballet, was orchestrated by Andre Caplet. It is in the spirit of Debussy's Children's Corner Suite and includes the ragtime dance Le Petit Negre, a close cousin to The Golliwogg's Cakewalk.
Virtually unknown is Khamma (1911-12), orchestrated mostly with the help of Charles Koechlin, which has an ancient Egyptian setting and also sounds the most exotic. Lan Shui and the orchestra's attention to detail and nuance in all three scores, the highlight of the disc, is brilliantly captured in this highly realistic recording. Possessed with a wide dynamic range, this is breathtaking stuff.