Originally published on March 17

Anyone for philosophical tennis? The opening of Richard Strauss’s Nietzsche-inspired Also sprach Zarathustra from the LSO and François-Xavier Roth is spectacularly cinematic (I am trying hard to not mention Kubrick and 2001) and dynamic, captured in superbly open and immediate sound, sun-rising a performance that is as eloquent as it voluptuous as it is thrilling, a detail- and incident-studded performance (November 2018) that joins the very best versions of this work, the LSO in fantastic form with playing of precision, passion, sensitivity and subtlety, Roth exploring a wide dynamic range that is caught handsomely by engineer Jonathan Stokes and without post-production bling. It’s impossible to not get totally involved in the unindulgent thirty-two-minute music-making.

Debussy’s Jeux (1912), a seminal masterpiece that transcends the danced scenario…

The scene is a garden at dusk; a tennis ball has been lost; a boy and two girls are searching for it. The artificial light of the large electric lamps shedding fantastic rays about them suggests the idea of childish games: they play hide and seek, they try to catch one another, they quarrel, they sulk without cause. The night is warm, the sky is bathed in pale light; they embrace. But the spell is broken by another tennis ball thrown in mischievously by an unknown hand. Surprised and alarmed, the boy and girls disappear into the nocturnal depths of the garden.

… also receives a notable reading (I wonder if using the Critical Edition prepared by Pierre Boulez in 1988), an exceptionally lucid account of Boulez-like clarity from January 2018 (also in the Barbican Hall) that is wondrously flexible and ravishing, lit from within and poignantly expressive. LSO0833 [SACD] is released on March 24.

LSO Live – François-Xavier Roth records Debussy & Ravel.