Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'La Mer': Debussy's Masterful Impression of the Sea; Symphonic Sketches Regarded as Fine Impressionism

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'La Mer': Debussy's Masterful Impression of the Sea; Symphonic Sketches Regarded as Fine Impressionism

Article excerpt

Byline: Will Kesling

Thursday evening in Jacoby Symphony Hall the Jacksonville Symphony served up a most unusual program. Two works by the German composer Robert Schumann were sandwiched between the music of two Frenchmen. The concert opened with a suite of Gabriel Faur's incidental music to the Belgian Maurice Maeterlinck's play "Pellas et Mlisande." The closing work on the concert was by Claude Debussy. Wait! It was Debussy who used Maeterlinck's play as basis for his revolutionary opera "Pellas et Mlisande." Be that as it may, it was Debussy's masterful aural impression of the sea, "La Mer," that served as the concert's finale.

Because of a looming compositional deadline, Faur used music from incomplete works to create incidental music to Maeterlinck's play. After the run of the play, Faur created a four-movement suite from the 19 pieces.

The audience awaits Courtney Lewis' baton to go down to commence the concert and this exquisite score. His suggested tempo is a little unclear to the musicians and for a few nanoseconds the opening was a bit fuzzy. The orchestra is quick to gather itself in spite of demonstrative conductoral gestures, and the lush serenity and beauty in the opening Prelude poured out.

The string playing was warm and dynamic but, interpretively, the overall shape of the whole required more breadth and craved more expansiveness.

The challenges of playing Robert Schumann's Cello Concerto are many and the work was once considered by cellists to be a thankless task. The concerto was composed within a two-week time period during 1850 but was never performed during Schumann's lifetime. Today it is played with some frequency. The issues of performance are interpretive because Schumann's fragile mental state is displayed in his writing. Guest cellist Jonah Ellsworth met these compositional quirks straight on. The quick changes between the very confident and the very fragile Schumann, those happy moments disappearing in an instant were completely under this young cellist's emotional control. Ellsworth took his seat, cocked his head to his right shoulder, placed his chin, as it were, on the fingerboard and wowed the audience. …

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