Göteborgs Symfoniker
Available until 14 May 2023

Debussy: La mer, trois esquisses symphoniques

“La mer”  consists of three symphonic sketches, where the first part depicts the sea from dawn to noon. The entire work is an impressionistic depiction of the interplay of nature, winds and waves.

The French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918) is considered a pioneer in modernist classical music. The two works “Prélude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune” (1894) and “La mer” (1905) are important milestones in the development towards a more impressionistic musical language and have also become two of Debussy’s most popular and beloved compositions.

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With the successful premiere of the opera Pelléas et Mélisande in 1902, Claude Debussy established himself seriously as a composer, and after the breakthrough he worked faster and with increased confidence. The Sea (La Mer) was composed between 1903 and 1905, and is among his most audience-friendly orchestral works. Despite the subtitle Three Symphonic Sketches, it is more like a symphony in its structure, but at the same time is a little too unorthodox to be called that, as it deviates from convention in the details. Debussy's stated preference for Asian pentatonic scales, rather than the conventional Western scales, also adds an extra layer of "shimmer" to the sound. CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918) The Sea In the first movement, From dawn to noon on the sea, Debussy allows the main theme to develop towards a powerful finale, after first being born out of indistinct tonality. With a complicated orchestration at the bottom, where the strings are sometimes divided into up to fifteen parts, together with the horns, the harp and the woodwind, he creates an effective sound world that flows with rich harmonies. The third movement, Dialogue between wind and waves, is a symbolic and powerful musical dialogue between vague and distinct moods. In between we have a scherzo, Play of the Waves, where Debussy shows us a masterful test of free form. The theme material and instrumentation alternates playfully, and is somewhat reminiscent of Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. All three movements have the changeability of the sea as a metaphor for music in constant motion, something Debussy returns to in later compositions.


The Gothenburg Symphony, called "one of the world's most formidable orchestras" by the Guardian, has toured the USA, Europe, Japan and the Far East and performed at major music centres and festivals throughout the world. Chief conductor is Santtu-Matias Rouvali who started his tenure in 2017. Barbara Hannigan and Christoph Eschenbach are principal guest conductors since 2019. Already at the orchestra's very first years, the great Swedish composer Wilhelm Stenhammar was appointed principal conductor, contributing strongly to the Nordic profile of the orchestra by inviting his colleagues Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius to conduct their own works. Subsequent holders of the post include Sergiu Comissiona, Sixten Ehrling and Charles Dutoit. During Neeme Järvi's tenure (1982-2004), the orchestra became a major international force. In 1997 it was appointed the National Orchestra of Sweden. During his celebrated tenure as music director (2007-2012), Gustavo Dudamel took the Orchestra to major music centres and festivals in Europe, making acclaimed appearances at BBC Proms and Vienna Musikverein. The list of prominent guest conductors has included Wilhelm Furtwängler, Pierre Monteux, Herbert von Karajan, Myung-Whun Chung, Herbert Blomstedt and Sir Simon Rattle. The orchestra also runs extensive concert projects for children, and regularly releases digital live concerts free on gsoplay.se. The orchestra has been involved in many prestigious recording projects, the latest one the complete Sibelius Symphonies with Santtu-Matias Rouvali for Alpha Classics. Earlier, the orchestra has issued over 100 recordings on BIS, Deutsche Grammophon, Chandos, Farao Classics and several other labels. The Gothenburg Symphony is owned by the Region Västra Götaland.

Eivind Gullberg Jensen is from season 2022/23 Chief Conductor of the Noord Nederlands Orkest. He is also Artistic and General Director of Bergen National Opera since 2021. An experienced conductor with an extensive repertoire range, he is recognised for his knowledgeable and insightful interpretations. Jensen has previously conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker, Münchner Philharmoniker, Hamburger Symphoniker and WDR Sinfonieorchester in Germany, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Vancouver, North Carolina and Oregon symphony orchestras in North America, and further in Europe the Royal Stockholm and Netherlands Radio philharmonic orchestras, Orchestre de Paris and Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. Over recent seasons he has worked with internationally renowned soloists such as Leif Ove Andsnes, Truls Mørk, Alice Sara Ott, Javier Perianes, Hélène Grimaud, Gautier Capuçon, Sol Gabetta, Alban Gerhardt, Hilary Hahn, Gabriela Montero, Emmanuel Pahud, Yefim Bronfman, Alexander Toradze, Vadim Repin, Viktoria Mullova, Renaud Capuçon, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Mari Eriksmoen, Charlotte Hellekant, Albert Dohmen and Guy Braunstein. Previous opera highlights include, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence with the new Simon McBurney production of The Rake’s Progress, the Wiener Staatsoper with Tosca and Rusalka, Opéra de Lille with Die Zauberflote and Der fliegende Holländer, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma with Rusalka, English National Opera with Janácek’s Jenufa, as well as Rusalka, Eugene Onegin and La Bohème (in Stefan Herheim’s production) at Den Norske Opera. Eivind Gullberg Jensen studied conducting in Stockholm with Jorma Panula, and in Vienna with Leopold Hager. Previously, he studied violin and musical theory in Trondheim, Norway.