Claude Debussy (Aug 1862 – Mar 1918)

Composed In

between 1903 - 1905


23 minutes


2 flutes (doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, 3 bassoons (doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets and 2 cornets, 3 trombones and tuba, timpani, percussions, two harps, and strings.


Claude Debussy’s most brilliant orchestral work, La Mer, is one of the greatest achievements in the orchestral literature. It is a work of such imagination that it stands apart from traditions and influences, and its modernity can still be felt today. Debussy truly had the ability to see images with an Impressionist’s eye, working with the color and mass of instrumental combinations much as a painter works with pigments, and Munch does wonders with the musical palette of La Mer.


About the Composition

1 From Dawn To Midday On The Sea

It explores the sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic changes of atmosphere and lighting that accompany the progress of morning on the water.

2 Play Of Waves

Second movement draws the imagination to the spheres of light and motion. One senses the rocking of the waves, the unexpected shifts of current, the iridescent glint of sunlight on the surface of the water and the mysterious depths teeming with life.

3 Dialog Of The Wind And The Sea

One feels close to the sea’s danger, as the orchestra heaves and swells in great washes of sound. A moment of suspenseful calm is reached before a great, final buildup shows the sea in stormy triumph, dazzling and full of elemental force.

Claude Debussy

Fun Facts about the Composer

  • Came from a non-musical family: his father owned a china shop, and his mother was a seamstress.
  • Started his studies at the Paris Conservatoire at 10.
  • Never placed higher than fourth in any piano competitions.
  • Started the modern period of classical music.
  • La mer wasn’t well received at first , after Debussy caused outrage by leaving his wife.

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