Jerry Wong's second release on MSR Classics is a celebration of the piano music of Claude Debussy, whose centenary was marked in 2018. Most of the selections are quite well-known and popular, perhaps none more famous than Clair de lune, though listeners will recognize others according to their exposure to them. Yet Wong's intention isn't to offer a greatest-hits compilation, but to focus on two aspects of Debussy's music, namely his imaginative use of rhythmic movement to create impressions of activity, and the use of the dance to evoke nostalgic moods. The Suite Bergamasque is placed squarely in the center of the program, and its inclusion of a prelude, menuet, and passepied suggest the keyboard suites of Couperin and Rameau, though the music is pure Debussy in its poetic use of lively rhythms, scintillating melodies, and nuanced harmonies. Surrounding the suite are groups of selections from the Préludes, Books I & II, and Children's Corner, along with character pieces and dances that illustrate the album's theme. Each piece provides an example of Debussy's imaginative use of the piano as a palette of colors to create visual and sonic impressions, such as treading through a winter landscape in Des pas sur la neige, or experiencing the sparkling effect of flurries in The Snow is Dancing. Similarly, he explores the dance impulse in Valse romantique, La plus que lente, Mazurka, and the Tarantelle styrienne, which are all magically transformed in Debussy's hands. Wong's playing is sensitive and subtle, with great attention paid to dynamics and touch, though his energy is high throughout and his playing is often quite virtuosic without being obvious.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson