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La Mer

Debussy arr. Beamish

Arranged for Piano Trio

Composition Date: 2013/2015

Duration: 30'

Instrumentation: Vln, Vc, Pf



Commissioned and premiered by the Trusler Carroll Wass Trio at St Mary's Church, Horncastle, Lincolnshire on 16 August 2013.

Programme Note:

La Mer

Claude Debussy

Arranged for piano trio by Sally Beamish (2013)

To arrange La Mer for piano trio was one of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered. The temptation was to represent every note from Debussy’s score, but in order to do that (in any case nigh on impossible) all three musicians would have had to be playing all the time, which could have led to an unchanging, dense texture.

I decided instead to look at the piano trio itself as a medium - particularly works such as the Ravel - and reinvent Debussy’s orchestral score with the piano trio in mind. I needed to create light and shade, and subtleties of colour. This meant exploring what strings and piano can do in terms of texture, and concentrating on idiomatic and natural techniques. This led to use of harmonics, mutes, bow position - such as sul ponticello (a glassy sound made by playing very near the bridge) - and various doublings between piano and strings, using unisons to create new ‘instruments’ – like mixing blue and yellow to make green.

Once I’d completed the score, I worked with the players, who often suggested feats of virtuosity I hadn’t thought possible, thereby opening up new possibilities previously discounted.

It has been an immensely satisfying experience to collaborate on re-creating this iconic score for these inspirational players.

La Mer: arranged for piano trio was commissioned by Trio Apaches, with additional funding from the Lincolnshire International Chamber Music Festival, and many individual sponsors*, as a companion piece for ‘The Seafarer Trio’, and was first performed at LICMF 2013. Both pieces were recorded on Orchid Classics and released in 2014.

Sally Beamish 2014

* the sponsors are acknowledged on the page that they chose to support

Score revised January 2015


Available Recordings:

The Seafarer

Orchid Classics 2014

Trio Apaches

Sir Willard White


1. Beamish The Seafarer Trio (Narrated by Sir Willard White)

2. Debussy/Beamish La Mer

Sir Willard White's extraordinary reading of the iconic 9th century Anglo-Saxon poem is presented alongside a new transcription commissioned by the stunning Trio Apaches: Debussy's La Mer.

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