Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the orchestra in a rendering of Debussy’s Images, punctuated by the pianistic poetry of Jean-Yves Thibaudet, as if to introduce Stravinsky’s galvanizing Les Noces, accompanied by the custom designed graphics of Hillary Leben.
Beyond the notion of ‘impressionism’, sometimes attributed to him overly systematically, Debussy was a master colourist of sounds. The finesse of his orchestral palette is at its peak in his three Images (1905-1912), particularly the second, Iberia, an authentic ‘impression of Spain’ complete with visual and olfactory references: the streets and lanes, nocturnal scents and festive mornings... Between these sound tableaux, Jean-Yves Thibaudet freely inserts pianistic punctuations, echoing, as often in the Preludes, Debussy’s visual imagination, before offering a rare performance of Fantaisie for piano and orchestra, a piece premiered only after the composer’s death.
An artistic variation on traditional Russian peasant weddings, sensitively evoking the bride’s ritual braid and the mothers’ lamentations over their children’s departure, Les Noces is one of Stravinsky’s masterpieces. Steven Stucky’s 2005 orchestration paired here with custom graphics by Hillary Leben make this an enchanting version of this musical ceremony.