Voyaging then to the blasted shale of the Suffolk coast for the Sea Interludes from Britten’s opera Peter Grimes, this quartet of works charted a course through reaching emotional depths, from the aching sorrow of dawn into the eye of a ferocious squall.
Oddly, for a program of such flowing and largely lyrical repertoire, Morlot’s somewhat severe, declamatory style proved a disturbing force on the music’s surface tension. This was particularly apparent in that most definitive of sea-inspired works, Debussy’s La Mer. Now recognised as a masterpiece, its 1905 premiere was in fact more a shipwreck than a proud maiden voyage, and something of the potential fragility of Debussy’s carefully layered textures was present in Morlot’s account.
There were moments where the performance matched the drama and majesty of the Hokusai woodcut The Great Wave, so iconically used as the published score’s cover art. And yet, while it may not have been all-out damp squib, ultimately this performance failed to make a splash.