Moving from the recording to the physical and material, this score is part of the critical edition of the complete works of Claude Debussy (1862-1918). Edited by musicologist Myriam Chimènes and Boulez, Jeux, was commissioned from Debussy by the Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev for his star dancer and choreographer, Vaslav Nijinsky, Jeux, is a setting of a game of tennis between a man and two women. The selection of the setting could be considered a bit modern as the sport entered the consciousness of the French bourgeoisie with Les internationaux de France de Roland-Garros in 1891. Its premiere caused a scandal at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris on 15 May 1913. However, a fortnight later the premiere of another ballet in the same theatre would erupt in an even more violent riot. The notoriety and impact of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps would overshadow reception of this late work of Debussy.
However experimental the harmonic and rhythmic language of Stravinsky’s masterpiece, Debussy’s ballet displays its own idiosyncratic innovations. Its sections unfold with constantly changing orchestration with passages developed by new and contrasting groupings. Similarly, its formal structure is likewise unpredictable. Even though he does not believe that Jeux is a true composition of ‘moment form’, Jonathan Kramer acknowledges its formal impact on works of Boulez and Stockhausen which utilise its non-developmental aspects and discontinuities between sections. Boulez having conducted the work numerous times recognised its importance and promoted it in performances and recordings. Debussy’s work inspired a new method of listening in the role of form in compositions of the twentieth century.