La mer stands at the centre of Debussy's achievement: described by the composer as 'a seascape without figures', it is arguably the greatest and most original French symphony. In this study La mer is considered in the context of Debussy's personal and musical development, and in the French musical renaissance in general, looking back to Csar Franck and forward to the orchestral Images and Jeux. The author uses new biographical information and a wide range of sources to reveal the period of La mer's composition as one of intense emotional turbulence. Detailed discussion of performance styles draws on current recordings, and two analytical chapters trace the growth of ideas through the work. Studies of rhythm, motif and tonality show how Debussy generates 'narratives' across the three movements, which give La mer a structural integrity unparalleled in French music at the turn of the century.
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La mer in performance
The invisible sentiments of nature
Material and immaterial music
Rhythm and rhythmicised time
Motif and arabesque
1'aube a midi acoustic scale apres-midi arabesque bass cadence cadential cello cello theme chapter Chevillard chorale chord chromatic Claude Debussy climax coda Colonne composer composition Concerts conductors cor anglais crotchet cyclic motif d'Indy Debussy in Proportion Debussy on Music Debussy's Debussy's music Dialogue du vent Dt major Durand dynamic elements fanfares figure final formal harmony harps heard horn motif Howat Impressionism Impressionist interlude Jeux de vagues Julian Rushton La mer Debussy last movement Letters Lilly major triad melodic mer's motivic Nocturnes of'Jeux de vagues opening opera orchestral Paris passage Pelleas performance piano pitch play principal theme programme music progression recapitulation rhythmic Rolf score second principal section semiquaver Sibley manuscript sonata form string style sur la mer symphonic poem symphony tempo third movement three movements tonal tonic triad Toscanini tritone tritone dominant tritone motif two-bar phrases violins Wagner whole-tone woodwind