Achille-Claude Debussy

Achille-Claude Debussy (French: ; 22 august 1862 – 25 march 1918) to be a French composer. Together with Maurice Ravel, he was among the most prominent figures linked with Impressionist music, though he himself disliked the hatchet when applied to his compositions. In France, he was made Chevalier that the Legion of Honour in 1903.  Debussy was among the most prominent composers the the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and also his use of non-traditional scales and chromaticism influenced many composers that followed.

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Debussy’s music is provided for the sensory content and also frequent usage of atonality. The French literary style of his duration was recognized as Symbolism, and also this movement straight inspired Debussy both as a composer and also as an active cultural participant.

Early life

Claude Debussy was born top top 22 august 1862 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, the eldest of five children. His father, Manuel-Achille Debussy, owned a china shop there; his mother, Victorine Manoury Debussy, was a seamstress. The household moved come Paris in 1867, yet in 1870 Debussy’s pregnant mom fled with Claude to his head aunt’s house in Cannes to escape the Franco-Prussian War. Debussy started piano lessons over there at the period of seven with an Italian violin in his beforehand 40s named Cerutti; his aunt paid for his lessons. In 1871 he drew the fist of Marie Mauté de Fleurville, who claimed to have been a pupil that Frédéric Chopin. Debussy always believed her, although there is no independent evidence to assistance her claim.  His talents soon became evident, and also in 1872, at age ten, Debussy gone into the Paris Conservatoire, whereby he invested the following 11 years. Throughout his time there he studied composition v Ernest Guiraud, music history/theory through Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray, harmony with Émile Durand,  piano v Antoine François Marmontel, body organ with César Franck, and also solfège through Albert Lavignac, and also other far-reaching figures of the era. He additionally became a lifelong girlfriend of fellow student and also distinguished pianist Isidor Philipp. ~ Debussy’s death, numerous pianists seek Philipp’s advice on play Debussy’s works.

Musical development

From the outset, although plainly talented, Debussy was argumentative and also experimental. He tested the rigid to teach of the Academy, favoring instead dissonances and intervals the were frowned upon. Favor Georges Bizet, he to be a brilliant pianist and an exceptional sight reader, who could have had a expert career had he therefore wished. The pieces he play in public at this time included sonata movements by Beethoven, Schumann and Weber; and Chopin—the Ballade No. 2, a motion from the Piano Concerto No. 1, and the Allegro de concert.

During the summers of 1880, 1881, and also 1882 Debussy accompanied the well-off patroness that Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Nadezhda von Meck, together she travelled with her household in Europe. The young composer’s plenty of musical activities during this vacations consisted of playing four-hand pieces with von Meck at the piano, offering music great to her children, and performing in private concerts with several of her musician friends.  Despite von Meck’s closeness with Tchaikovsky, the Russian master appears to have had actually minimal effect on Debussy. In September 1880 she sent out Debussy’s Danse bohémienne because that Tchaikovsky’s perusal. A month later on Tchaikovsky wrote ago to her, “It is a really pretty piece, but it is lot too short. No a solitary idea is express fully, the kind is terribly shriveled, and also it lacks unity.” Debussy did not publish the piece; the manuscript remained in the von Meck family, and it was offered to B. Schott’s Sohne in Mainz, and also published by them in 1932. A greater influence to be Debussy’s close friendship through Marie-Blanche Vasnier, a singer he met once he started working as an accompanist to earn part money. She and her husband, Henri, provided Debussy emotional and also professional support. Henri Vasnier presented him come the works of significant French authors of the time, which offered rise to his an initial songs, settings of poems by Paul Verlaine, the son-in-law of his previous teacher, Mme. Mauté de Fleurville.


Debussy’s exclusive life was often turbulent. At the age of 18 he started an eight-year affair v Marie-Blanche Vasnier, mam of a Parisian polite servant. The relationship at some point faltered complying with his to win of the Prix de Rome in 1884 and also obligatory residence in Rome.

On his permanent return to Paris and his parents’ house on the avenue de Berlin (now rue de Liège) he started a tempestuous relationship with Gabrielle (‘Gaby’) Dupont, a tailor’s daughter from Lisieux, soon cohabiting with her ~ above the rue de Londres, and later the rue Gustave Doré. During this time he additionally had an affair v the singer Thérèse Roger, to who he to be briefly engaged. Such cavalier action was commonly condemned, and also precipitated the end of his lengthy friendship with Ernest Chausson. He ultimately left Dupont because that her friend Rosalie (‘Lilly’) Texier, a fashion model whom he married in 1899, ~ threatening suicide if she refuse him.  However, return Texier was affectionate, practical, straightforward, and well preferred by Debussy’s friends and also associates, he became increasingly irritated by her intellectual limitations and lack of music sensitivity. Moreover, her looks had actually prematurely aged, and also she to be unable to bear children. In 1904, Debussy was introduced to Emma Bardac, wife of Parisian banker Sigismond Bardac, by her child Raoul, one of his students. In contrast to Texier, Bardac was a sophisticate, a brilliant conversationalist, and also an completed singer. ~ despatching Lilly to she father’s residence at Bichain in Villeneuve-la-Guyard top top 15 July 1904, Debussy covertly took Bardac to Jersey because that a holiday. ~ above their return to France, Debussy created to Texier native Dieppe top top 11 August, informing she their marriage was over, but still make no mention of Bardac. Debussy briefly relocated to an apartment at 10 way Alphand. On 14 October, five days before their 5th wedding anniversary, Texier check suicide, shooting herself in the chest through a revolver when standing in the ar de la Concorde; she survived, although the bullet remained lodged in her vertebrae for the remainder of she life. The taking place scandal to be to alienate Debussy from countless of his friends, whilst Bardac was disowned by she family.

Debussy’s grave at Passy Cemetery 

Debussy passed away of rectal cancer at his Paris house on 25 in march 1918, at the period of 55. He had actually been diagnosed v the cancer in 1909 after enduring haemorrhaging, and in December 1915 underwent one of the more quickly colostomy operations ever performed. The operation accomplished only a temporary respite, and occasioned him significant frustration (he to be to liken dressing in the morning come “all the labours of Hercules in one”). His death developed in the midst of the aerial and artillery bombardment that Paris throughout the German Spring offensive of civilization War I. The funeral procession made its means through deserted roadways to Père Lachaise Cemetery as the German guns bombarded the city. The military case in France was critical, and also did not permit the honour that a windy funeral v ceremonious graveside orations. Debussy’s body was reinterred the following year in the tiny Passy Cemetery sequestered behind the Trocadéro, fulfilling his great to rest ‘among the trees and also the birds’; his wife and daughter are buried with him.




Chords, featuring chromatically transformed sevenths and ninths and also progressing unconventionally, discover by Debussy in a “celebrated conversation in ~ the piano v his teacher Ernest Guiraud”. 

Rudolph Reti points out these functions of Debussy’s music, which “established a brand-new concept the tonality in european music”:

Glittering passages and also webs that figurations which odor from occasional absence of tonality;Frequent usage of parallel chords which space “in significance not harmonies in ~ all, but rather ‘chordal melodies’, enriched unisons”; part writers explain these as non-functional harmonies;Bitonality, or at least bitonal chords;Use that the whole-tone and pentatonic scale;Unprepared modulations, “without any kind of harmonic bridge.”

He concludes the Debussy’s success was the synthesis of monophonic based “melodic tonality” with harmonies, albeit different from those the “harmonic tonality”.

The application of the term “Impressionist” come Debussy and also the music he affected is a issue of intense controversy within academic circles. One side suggests that the term is a misnomer, an inappropriate brand which Debussy himself opposed. In a letter the 1908, he created “I to be trying to execute ‘something different’—an impact of reality … what the imbeciles contact ‘impressionism’, a term which is together poorly offered as possible, particularly by the critics, because they carry out not hesitate to use it come Turner, the finest creator that mysterious effects in every the people of art.” The the opposite side says that Debussy may have been reacting to unfavorable criticism at the time, and also the negativity the critics associated with Impressionism. It can be said that he would have been pleased v application that the current meaning of Impressionism to his music.

List that works

List that compositions by Claude Debussy by genreList the compositions through Claude Debussy by Lesure numbers

Early works

Beginning in the 1890s, Debussy emerged his own musical language mainly independent the Wagner’s style, collared in part from the dreamy, occasionally morbid romanticism the the Symbolist movement. Debussy came to be a regular participant at Stéphane Mallarmé’s Symbolist gatherings, whereby Wagnerism dominated the discussion. In comparison to the massive works of Wagner and also other late-romantic composers, however, approximately this time Debussy chose to write in smaller, much more accessible forms. The Deux arabesques is an instance of among Debussy’s faster works, currently developing his music language. Suite bergamasque (1890) recalls rococo decorousness with a contemporary cynicism and puzzlement. This suite includes one of Debussy’s most well-known pieces, Clair de Lune. Debussy’s cable Quartet in G boy (1893) paved the means for his later, much more daring harmonic exploration. In this work he used the Phrygian mode as well as less conventional scales, such together the whole-tone, which creates a sense of floating, ethereal harmony. Debussy was start to employ a single, continuous theme and also break far from the traditional A-B-A form, with its restatements and also amplifications, which had actually been a mainstay of timeless music because Haydn.

Influenced through Mallarmé, Debussy wrote one of his most famous works, the revolutionary Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, truly original in kind and execution. In contrast to the big orchestras therefore favoured through late-romanticism, Debussy composed this item for a smaller sized ensemble, emphasizing crucial colour and also timbre. Despite Mallarmé himself, and colleague and also friend Paul Dukas having been impressed by the piece, it to be controversial in ~ its premiere. However Prélude created Debussy as among the top composers of the era.

Middle works

The 3 Nocturnes (1899) include characteristic researches in veiled harmony and also texture as demonstrated in Nuages; exuberance in Fêtes; and whole-tones in Sirènes. Difference sharply v Wagnerian opera, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande premiered in 1902, ~ ten years of work. It would certainly be his only complete opera. Based upon the beat by Maurice Maeterlinck, the opera confirmed to it is in an instant success and immensely prominent to younger French composers, including Maurice Ravel. These works brought a fluidity the rhythm and colour quite new to western music.

La mer (1903–1905) essays a much more symphonic form, v a finale that works themes from the an initial movement, although the center movement, Jeux de vagues, proceeds much much less directly and with an ext variety of colour. Again, the reviews were sharply divided. Some critics thought the therapy to be much less subtle and less mysterious 보다 his ahead works and also even a step backward. Pierre Lalo complained “I no hear, nor see, nor feel the sea”. Rather extolled that “power and also charm”, its “extraordinary verve and also brilliant fantasy”, and also its strong colors and definite lines.

During this period Debussy wrote much for the piano. The collection of pieces entitled to water le piano (1901) offers rich harmonies and textures which would later prove vital in jazz music. His first volume of photos pour piano (1904–1905) combine harmonic innovation with poetic suggestion: Reflets dans l’eau is a musical summary of rippling water; Hommage à Rameau, the second piece, is slow and also yearningly nostalgic. That takes as its inspiration a melody from Jean-Philippe Rameau’s 1737 Castor et Pollux.

The evocative Estampes because that piano (1903) offer impressions of exotic locations. Debussy came into contact with Javanese gamelan music throughout the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle. Pagodes is the directly inspired result, aiming because that an evocation that the pentatonic structures employed by the Javanese music.  Debussy composed his renowned Children’s corner Suite (1908) for his lover daughter, Claude-Emma, whom he nicknamed Chouchou. The suite recalls classicism—the opening piece physician Gradus ad Parnassum describes Muzio Clementi’s arsenal of instructional piano compositions Gradus ad Parnassum, and a brand-new wave that American ragtime music. In the popular final piece of the suite, Golliwogg’s Cakewalk, Debussy likewise pokes funny at Richard Wagner through mimicking the opened bars the Wagner’s prelude come Tristan und Isolde.

The first book that Préludes (1910), twelve in total, showed to be his most successful occupational for piano. The Preludes are typically compared to those that Chopin. Debussy’s preludes are replete with rich, unusual and daring harmonies. They encompass the popular La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair) and also La Cathédrale Engloutie (The Engulfed Cathedral). Debussy wanted people to respond intuitively to these pieces so he put the title at the finish of each one in the hope that listeners would certainly not do stereotype pictures as lock listened.

Larger scaled works contained his orchestral piece Iberia (1907), started as a job-related for two pianos, a triptych medley the Spanish allusions and fleeting impressions and also the music because that Gabriele D’Annunzio’s mystery play Le martyre de Saint Sébastien (1911). A lush and also dramatic work, created in only two months, that is amazing in maintain a late antique modal environment that otherwise to be touched just in relatively short piano pieces.

During this period, together Debussy gained more popularity, the was engaged as a conductor transparent Europe, most often performing Pelléas, La Mer, and also Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. The was additionally an sometimes music doubter to complement his conducting fees and piano lessons. Debussy avoided analytical dissection and attempts to pressure images native music, “Let united state at all costs preserve this magic strange to music, because of every the arts the is most susceptible to magic.” He could be caustic and witty, sometimes sloppy and also ill-informed. Debussy to be for the most component enthusiastic around Richard Strauss and also Stravinsky, worshipful the Chopin and also Bach, the latter being acknowledged as “the one great master.” His connection to Beethoven was a complex one; that was claimed to describe him together “le vieux sourd” (the old deaf one) and abjured one young pupil never ever to beat Beethoven’s music because that “it is prefer somebody dance on mine grave.” However, Debussy made various other statements around Beethoven which seem to imply an admiration tempered by an essential views, together it was said: “Debussy chosen Mozart, and he believed that Beethoven had terrifically profound things come say, but that that did not know how to say them, due to the fact that he to be imprisoned in a web of incessant restatement and also of German aggressiveness.” He likewise admired the works of Charles-Valentin Alkan. Schubert and Mendelssohn fared lot worse, the last being described as a “facile and also elegant notary”.

Late works

Debussy’s harmonies and also chord progressions typically exploit dissonances without any type of formal resolution. Uneven in his earlier work, that no much longer hides discords in lush harmonies. The forms are far much more irregular and also fragmented.  These chords that seemingly had no resolution were defined by Debussy himself as “floating chords”, and also were supplied to collection tone and also mood in numerous of his works. The whole tone scale dominates much of Debussy’s late music.

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His two last volumes of functions for the piano, the Études (1915) interprets similar varieties of style and also texture purely together pianistic exercises and also includes pieces that build irregular kind to an extreme as well together others influenced by the young Igor Stravinsky (a existence too in the suite En blanc et noir for two pianos, 1915).  The rarefaction that these works is a feature of the last set of songs, the Trois poèmes de Mallarmé (1913), and also of the Sonata because that flute, viola and also harp (1915), though the sonata and its companions also recapture the inquisitive Verlainian classicism.