77 Facts About Claude Debussy


Claude Debussy is sometimes seen as the first Impressionist composer, although he vigorously rejected the term.

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Claude Debussy was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Claude Debussy originally studied the piano, but found his vocation in innovative composition, despite the disapproval of the Conservatoire's conservative professors.

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Claude Debussy took many years to develop his mature style, and was nearly 40 when he achieved international fame in 1902 with the only opera he completed, Pelleas et Melisande.

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Claude Debussy's music was to a considerable extent a reaction against Wagner and the German musical tradition.

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Claude Debussy regarded the classical symphony as obsolete and sought an alternative in his "symphonic sketches", La mer.

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Claude Debussy was greatly influenced by the Symbolist poetic movement of the later 19th century.

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Claude Debussy's works have strongly influenced a wide range of composers including Bela Bartok, Olivier Messiaen, George Benjamin, and the jazz pianist and composer Bill Evans.

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Claude Debussy died from cancer at his home in Paris at the age of 55 after a composing career of a little more than 30 years.

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Claude Debussy was born on 22 August 1862 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Seine-et-Oise, on the north-west fringes of Paris.

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Claude Debussy was the eldest of the five children of Manuel-Achille Debussy and his wife, Victorine, nee Manoury.

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Claude Debussy senior ran a china shop and his wife was a seamstress.

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Manuel Claude Debussy remained in Paris and joined the forces of the Commune; after its defeat by French government troops in 1871 he was sentenced to four years' imprisonment, of which he only served one year.

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Claude Debussy first joined the piano class of Antoine Francois Marmontel, and studied solfege with Albert Lavignac and, later, composition with Ernest Guiraud, harmony with Emile Durand, and organ with Cesar Franck.

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The course included music history and theory studies with Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray, but it is not certain that Claude Debussy, who was apt to skip classes, actually attended these.

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In July 1874 Claude Debussy received the award of deuxieme accessit for his performance as soloist in the first movement of Chopin's Second Piano Concerto at the Conservatoire's annual competition.

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Claude Debussy was a fine pianist and an outstanding sight reader, who could have had a professional career had he wished, but he was only intermittently diligent in his studies.

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Claude Debussy travelled with her family for the summers of 1880 to 1882, staying at various places in France, Switzerland and Italy, as well as at her home in Moscow.

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Claude Debussy composed his Piano Trio in G major for von Meck's ensemble, and made a transcription for piano duet of three dances from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.

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Claude Debussy's was the wife of Henri Vasnier, a prominent civil servant, and much younger than her husband.

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Whether Vasnier was content to tolerate his wife's affair with the young student or was simply unaware of it is not clear, but he and Claude Debussy remained on excellent terms, and he continued to encourage the composer in his career.

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At the Conservatoire, Claude Debussy incurred the disapproval of the faculty, particularly his composition teacher, Guiraud, for his failure to follow the orthodox rules of composition then prevailing.

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Nevertheless, in 1884 Claude Debussy won France's most prestigious musical award, the Prix de Rome, with his cantata L'enfant prodigue.

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Claude Debussy was there from January 1885 to March 1887, with three or possibly four absences of several weeks when he returned to France, chiefly to see Marie Vasnier.

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Claude Debussy was much more impressed by the music of the 16th-century composers Palestrina and Lassus, which he heard at Santa Maria dell'Anima: "The only church music I will accept".

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Claude Debussy was often depressed and unable to compose, but he was inspired by Franz Liszt, who visited the students and played for them.

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In June 1885, Claude Debussy wrote of his desire to follow his own way, saying, "I am sure the Institute would not approve, for, naturally it regards the path which it ordains as the only right one.

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Week after his return to Paris in 1887, Claude Debussy heard the first act of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde at the Concerts Lamoureux, and judged it "decidedly the finest thing I know".

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Claude Debussy responded positively to Wagner's sensuousness, mastery of form, and striking harmonies, and was briefly influenced by them, but, unlike some other French composers of his generation, he concluded that there was no future in attempting to adopt and develop Wagner's style.

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Claude Debussy commented in 1903 that Wagner was "a beautiful sunset that was mistaken for a dawn".

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Claude Debussy attended two concerts of Rimsky-Korsakov's music, conducted by the composer.

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Later in 1890 Claude Debussy met Erik Satie, who proved a kindred spirit in his experimental approach to composition.

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Claude Debussy continued to compose songs, piano pieces and other works, some of which were publicly performed, but his music made only a modest impact, although his fellow composers recognised his potential by electing him to the committee of the Societe Nationale de Musique in 1893.

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In May 1893 Claude Debussy attended a theatrical event that was of key importance to his later career – the premiere of Maurice Maeterlinck's play Pelleas et Melisande, which he immediately determined to turn into an opera.

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In February 1894 Claude Debussy completed the first draft of Act I of his operatic version of Pelleas et Melisande, and for most of the year worked to complete the work.

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Claude Debussy's behaviour was widely condemned; anonymous letters circulated denouncing his treatment of both women, as well as his financial irresponsibility and debts.

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In terms of musical recognition, Claude Debussy made a step forward in December 1894, when the symphonic poem Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune, based on Stephane Mallarme's poem, was premiered at a concert of the Societe Nationale.

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Claude Debussy abandoned Dupont for her friend Marie-Rosalie Texier, known as "Lilly", whom he married in October 1899, after threatening suicide if she refused him.

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Claude Debussy's was affectionate, practical, straightforward, and well liked by Debussy's friends and associates, but he became increasingly irritated by her intellectual limitations and lack of musical sensitivity.

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From around 1900 Claude Debussy's music became a focus and inspiration for an informal group of innovative young artists, poets, critics, and musicians who began meeting in Paris.

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Claude Debussy later collected his criticisms with a view to their publication as a book; it was published after his death as Monsieur Croche, Antidilettante.

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Claude Debussy's was a sophisticate, a brilliant conversationalist, an accomplished singer, and relaxed about marital fidelity, having been the mistress and muse of Gabriel Faure a few years earlier.

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The ensuing scandal caused Bardac's family to disown her, and Claude Debussy lost many good friends including Dukas and Messager.

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Some praised the work, but Pierre Lalo, critic of Le Temps, hitherto an admirer of Claude Debussy, wrote, "I do not hear, I do not see, I do not smell the sea".

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Claude Debussy-Emma, affectionately known as "Chouchou", was a musical inspiration to the composer.

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Claude Debussy's outlived her father by scarcely a year, succumbing to the diphtheria epidemic of 1919.

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The following year began well, when at Faure's invitation, Claude Debussy became a member of the governing council of the Conservatoire.

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Claude Debussy's works began to feature increasingly in concert programmes at home and overseas.

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In 1915 Claude Debussy underwent one of the earliest colostomy operations.

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Claude Debussy had a fierce enemy at this period in the form of Camille Saint-Saens, who in a letter to Faure condemned Debussy's En blanc et noir: "It's incredible, and the door of the Institut [de France] must at all costs be barred against a man capable of such atrocities".

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Claude Debussy's health continued to decline; he gave his final concert on 14 September 1917 and became bedridden in early 1918.

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Claude Debussy's body was reinterred the following year in the small Passy Cemetery sequestered behind the Trocadero, fulfilling his wish to rest "among the trees and the birds"; his wife and daughter are buried with him.

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Later commentators have rated some of the late works more highly than Newman and other contemporaries did, but much of the music for which Claude Debussy is best known is from the middle years of his career.

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Analyst David Cox wrote in 1974 that Claude Debussy, admiring Wagner's attempts to combine all the creative arts, "created a new, instinctive, dreamlike world of music, lyrical and pantheistic, contemplative and objective – a kind of art, in fact, which seemed to reach out into all aspects of experience".

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Claude Debussy did not give his works opus numbers, apart from his String Quartet, Op.

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Claude Debussy's works were catalogued and indexed by the musicologist Francois Lesure in 1977 and their Lesure number ("L" followed by a number) is sometimes used as a suffix to their title in concert programmes and recordings.

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Claude Debussy wrote his own poems for the Proses lyriques but, in the view of the musical scholar Robert Orledge, "his literary talents were not on a par with his musical imagination".

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Claude Debussy believed that since Beethoven, the traditional symphonic form had become formulaic, repetitive and obsolete.

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Claude Debussy enlisted the help of Andre Caplet in orchestrating and arranging the score.

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Claude Debussy strongly objected to the use of the word "Impressionism" for his music, but it has continually been attached to him since the assessors at the Conservatoire first applied it, opprobriously, to his early work Printemps.

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Langham Smith comments that Claude Debussy wrote many piano pieces with titles evocative of nature – "Reflets dans l'eau", "Les Sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir" (1910) and "Brouillards" (1913) – and suggests that the Impressionist painters' use of brush-strokes and dots is paralleled in the music of Claude Debussy.

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In 1983 the pianist and scholar Roy Howat published a book contending that certain of Claude Debussy's works are proportioned using mathematical models, even while using an apparent classical structure such as sonata form.

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Reti concludes that Claude Debussy's achievement was the synthesis of monophonic based "melodic tonality" with harmonies, albeit different from those of "harmonic tonality".

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In 1889, Claude Debussy held conversations with his former teacher Guiraud, which included exploration of harmonic possibilities at the piano.

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Claude Debussy drew inspiration from what he called Palestrina's "harmony created by melody", finding an arabesque-like quality in the melodic lines.

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Claude Debussy opined that Chopin was "the greatest of them all, for through the piano he discovered everything"; he professed his "respectful gratitude" for Chopin's piano music.

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Claude Debussy was torn between dedicating his own Etudes to Chopin or to Francois Couperin, whom he admired as a model of form, seeing himself as heir to their mastery of the genre.

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Claude Debussy was for the most part enthusiastic about Richard Strauss and Stravinsky, respectful of Mozart and was in awe of Bach, whom he called the "good God of music".

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In 1912 Claude Debussy had remarked to his publisher of the opera Ariane et Barbe-bleue by the composer Paul Dukas, "You're right, [it] is a masterpiece – but it's not a masterpiece of French music.

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Claude Debussy was much in sympathy with the Symbolists' desire to bring poetry closer to music, became friendly with several leading exponents, and set many Symbolist works throughout his career.

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Claude Debussy set Dante Gabriel Rossetti's The Blessed Damozel in his early cantata, La Damoiselle elue.

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Claude Debussy wrote incidental music for King Lear and planned an opera based on As You Like It, but abandoned that once he turned his attention to setting Maeterlinck's play.

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Claude Debussy is widely regarded as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century.

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Pianist Stephen Hough believes that Claude Debussy's influence extends to jazz and suggests that Reflets dans l'eau can be heard in the harmonies of Bill Evans.

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In 1904, Claude Debussy played the piano accompaniment for Mary Garden in recordings for the Compagnie francaise du Gramophone of four of his songs: three melodies from the Verlaine cycle Ariettes oubliees – "Il pleure dans mon coeur", "L'ombre des arbres" and "Green" – and "Mes longs cheveux", from Act III of Pelleas et Melisande.

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Claude Debussy made a set of piano rolls for the Welte-Mignon company in 1913.

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Contemporaries of Claude Debussy who made recordings of his music included the pianists Ricardo Vines; Alfred Cortot (numerous solo pieces as well as the Violin Sonata with Jacques Thibaud and the Chansons de Bilitis with Maggie Teyte); and Marguerite Long ("Jardins sous la pluie" and "Arabesques").

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