La Mer A Deception? A Reception History Analysis

Rina Altaras


Debussy composed La Mer, in the summer of 1905. It was performed for the first time the same year in Paris. The reception of the public and the critics was biased. The critique, written by Amédée Boutarel, in Le Ménestrel, France’s longest running music journal (1833-1940), dismisses La Mer very openly. La Mer wasn’t reproduced in Paris till 1908 and then was a success. The most intriguing part of this success was the review of Amédée Boutarel again in Le Ménestrel, this time still with some reservation but clearly more appreciative and treating the performance as it were a premier. This paper presents possible reasons for the shift in Amédée Boutarel’s perception and thus the standpoint of the magazine from a Bourdieuian point of view. According to Bourdieu not only the artists (writers, composers) and performers, but also the agents (publishers, critics, journals) contribute directly to the production of the field of art, which has its own dynamics. For that purpose the magazine’s marketing & sales strategy is analysed by taking its content, visual design, and writers, specifically Boutarel, into account.


Debussy, La Mer, field of cultural production, Bourdieu, reception history

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