La mer

Claude Debussy

La mer

L109, CD111 • “The Sea”

Recommended recording

Curated by Guy Jones, Head of Curation

About this work

Debussy's L'îsle joyeuse (1903-1904) was inspired by Watteau's painting Embarkation for Cythere. Debussy's work is a single movement in a highly modified sonata form. Using a technique similar to Chopin's alteration of sonata form in his ballades, the lyrical second subject returns at the brilliant conclusion as a fortissimo paean. L'îsle joyeuse has an almost orchestral quality, as well as an unrelenting choreographic rhythmic drive. The cumulative effect is perfectly calculated and overwhelmingly successful. A number of hallmarks of Debussy's mature style -- parallel sonorities, whole-tone structures, multiple layers of sound, atmospheric effects, melodic fragmentation -- are in full evidence.