Beamish • Debussy

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Beamish; Debussy
LABELS: Orchid Classics
WORKS: Beamish: The Seafarer; Debussy: La mer (arr. Beamish)
PERFORMER: Willard White (narrator); Trio Apaches
CATALOGUE NO: ORC 100043

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‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat’, the booklet’s back cover quotes from Jaws. Or, one might feel, a bigger orchestra. In La mer, as here transcribed for string trio, a solo piano struggles to conjure dawn’s streaks. Yet it’s not long before Sally Beamish strikes gold, brilliantly reconfiguring Debussy’s textures with string harmonics, piano trills, and a dizzyingly wide range of colours. Trio Apaches – Matthew Trusler, Thomas Carroll and Ashley Wass – spatter us with more sea-spray than does many an orchestra.

La mer almost overshadows its tailor-made companion piece, Beamish’s half-hour setting of the Anglo-Saxon poem, The Seafarer. Willard White narrates the text with almost too much enthusiasm, declaiming the phrase ‘the laurel sere’ as if for a horror film trailer. There’s juicier music in Beamish’s atmospheric illustrations of bird cries, a hail storm and other marine phenomena, though even with Trio Apaches’s flair this sea trip remains somewhat daunting.

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Geoff Brown