DEBUSSY La Mer BEAMISH The Seafarer
The success of Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor may have come too late for Debussy to essay a mature one of his own but did provide a template for Sally Beamish when Trio Apaches asked her – despite her initial ‘polite laughter’ – to arrange La mer for piano, violin and cello. La mer is accessible in other transcriptions, of course, most notably for two pianos or piano duet, which provide a different but monochrome perspective on the music.
Beamish’s arrangement for piano trio works very nicely, the two strings adding more variety of colour than a second keyboard. True, one misses the full orchestral power at the climaxes, but the trio format highlights details often lost in the wash of sound otherwise. Beamish’s flair for writing for the ensemble shines through in her setting, for voice and trio, of Charles Harrison Wallace’s translation of the great Anglo-Saxon poem ‘The Seafarer’. Where La mer is a symphony on two notes in all but name, Beamish’s The Seafarer (2000) is more overtly descriptive, a chamber fantasy for narrator and trio with superbly calculated effects to accompany the reading of the text, here dramatically and expressively rendered by Willard White, and organically derived musical flow running underneath for its full 28 minute length. Orchid’s production values are strong, the sound clear, natural and very well balanced.