Friday, September 25, 2015

Righteous Classical Music: La Mer by Claude Debussy

YEAH, more Debussy! Debussy and Tchaikovsky are my two favorite composers, along with Beethoven, Rimsky-Korsakov, Sviridov and about a million other guys!
Ahem, so La Mer is a tone poem about (you guessed it!) the sea, and it is an absolute masterwork of suggestion through musical texture. Debussy portrays the many different 'moods' of the ocean, from tranquility to the crashing waves and mysterious depths.
There are three movements to this piece.
1. De L'aube a Midi sur la Mer (From Dawn to Midday on the Sea)
2. Jeux de Vagues (Games of the Waves)
3. Dialogue du Vent et de la Mer (Dialogue of the Wind and Sea)
The first movement is my favorite, but the others are super cool too. I love the first movement because it reminds me of the Monterey Bay, one of my favorite places in California. The waters are so peaceful at times, but also very powerful and awe-inspiring. That's a feeling I really get from this movement. There is a really pretty Flute solo, too!! Really, I just love how Debussy uses the woodwind section. He utilizes the strengths of each instrument and they are used to their fullest potential. Makes me wish I didn't have a cold so I could play flute/piccolo! :(
The second movement really does sound like playful waves. From the downward scales from the wind section at the start of the piece, to the somewhat spazzy part for strings, this movement is very suggestive of a rather squally day out at the harbor, the winds picking up and the waves becoming rougher. This movement isn't really melodic at all. You can't find a single defining melody. Rather, it's about the sounds and what they suggest, which isn't something you want all music to be, but it's pretty darn cool when done right. At the end of this movement, there is a lovely little bit for Piccolo and Harp, by the way. ;)
The last movement, Dialogue of the Wind and Sea, is foreboding, but also rather excited at the beginning. I really like the use of percussion, especially the timpani drum! The oboe and flute too, get to do some fun solo-ish parts. Towards the end, Piccolo does some cool whistle-y things which I like. The woodwinds do some very interesting runs that sound really difficult! Debussy is so hard to play because sometimes it sounds like it doesn't fit together when it actually does, so when you try and make it 'fit' the way you're used to, you mess it up. This movement makes for a nice, strong finale to what is a terrific musical image of the sea in all it's power and beauty, from tranquility to majesty.

Next Up: The 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky

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