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Classical Breakdown

20. Debussy's La Mer - Part 3

May 5, 2020

An orchestral staple today, this work about "the sea" wasn't well received at it's premiere. Audiences may have expected a Strauss-esque symphonic poem to bring the sea to life, but Debussy was more interested in the abstract. This is part 3 of our 3 part series on Debussy's enchanting orchestral work, La Mer. In this episode we get into the third and final movement "Dialogue du vent et de la mer," (Dialogue of the wind and the sea), use our imagination with Norse mythology, hear from Principal Oboe of the National Symphony Orchestra, Nicholas Stovall. Then we'll listen to a full performance featuring l'orchestra Lamoureux led by Igor Markevitch.

Show Notes

Nicholas Stovall, Principal Oboe of the National Symphony Orchestra

Nicholas Stovall, oboe

Nicholas Stovall has served principal oboe of the National Symphony Orchestra since September 2008 and made his solo debut with the Orchestra in December 2014. In addition to appearances with the Kennedy Center Chamber Players, Stovall has collaborated with pianist Christoph Eschenbach in chamber music performances. He is a member of the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra and has been featured as soloist in concertos of Vaughan Williams, J.S. Bach, and Jean Francaix with that ensemble. He has also performed as guest principal oboe with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and The Florida Orchestra.

Stovall has taught and performed at the Round Top Festival-Institute, Aspen Music Festival and School, Indiana University, and the Interlochen Center for the Arts. He is a faculty member at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University as well as Catholic University of America, and teaches in the National Symphony Youth Fellowship Program and Summer Music Institute. After completing studies at the Interlochen Arts Academy with Daniel Stolper, he earned degrees at the Cleveland Institute of Music and The Juilliard School as a student of John Mack, Elaine Douvas, and Nathan Hughes.

The melody doesn't always need to line up perfectly

In the images from the score below, you don't have to know how to read music to see that things don't line up perfectly. A professional orchestra will have everyone playing their parts rhythmically correct, but the overall atmosphere would be changed if everyones downbeats were always lined up. 

La Mer triplets p1La Mer triplets p2


Norse Mythology

Learn more about Aegir here: