Debussy La Mer

Debussy’s La Mer (Episode 3)

Featuring: Russell Steinberg, David Das, and Reuven Herman

At this monthly Ravel study, we continue our long-form study of the first movement of Claude Debussy’s impressionist masterpiece La Mer: Three Symphonic Sketches for Orchestra. Guiding our discussion are ASA President David Das, Vice-President Reuven Herman, and special guest Russell Steinberg. We take it apart instrument by instrument using our unique separated mock-up recordings and look at how Debussy constructed this masterpiece.

Debussy had fond childhood memories of the beauties of the sea, but he drew inspiration from art, preferring the seascapes available in painting and literature to the physical sea. He conceived the idea not as a symphony but as a more complex three-part orchestral piece, and it took two years to finish. The composition was completed in March 1905 and was premiered in October of the same year. Debussy later arranged the piece for four-hand piano, which provides us with another useful tool to separate the composition from the orchestration.


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