Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Claude-Achille Debussy 
(22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) 

This experimental French composer made a powerful impression on the world and ushered in the modern age of classical music.  Debussy was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye and his family moved to Paris when he was very young.  At the age of ten, his musical proficiency led to his studying for eleven years at the Paris Conservatoire, where he was considered a rebel for his use of dissonance.  He spent summers travelling throughout Europe with his patroness patroness Nadezhda von Meck and received a scholarship to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, including a residency at the French Academy in Rome.  He found the strictness oppressive and longed to follow his own muse:  "I am sure the Institute would not approve, for, naturally it regards the path which it ordains as the only right one. But there is no help for it! I am too enamoured of my freedom, too fond of my own ideas!"  

"I wish to write down my musical dreams in a spirit of utter self-detachment. I wish to sing of my interior visions with the naïve candour of a child. No doubt, this simple musical grammar will jar on some people. It is bound to offend the partisans of deceit and artifice. I foresee that and rejoice at it. I shall do nothing to create adversaries, but neither shall I do anything to turn enmities into friendships. I must endeavour to be a great artist so that I may dare to be myself and suffer for my faith. Those who feel as I do will only appreciate me more. The others will shun and hate me. I shall make no effort to appease them. On that distant day — I trust it is still very far off — when I shall no longer be a cause of strife, I shall feel bitter self-reproach. For that odious hypocrisy which enables one to please all mankind will inevitably have prevailed in those last works."

"Music would take over at the point at which words become powerless, with the one and only object of expressing that which nothing but music could express. For this, I need a text by a poet who, resorting to discreet suggestion rather than full statement, will enable me to graft my dream upon his dream — who will give me plain human beings in a setting belonging to no particular period or country. ... Then I do not wish my music to drown the words, nor to delay the course of the action. I want no purely musical developments which are not called for inevitably by the text. In opera there is always too much singing. Music should be as swift and mobile as the words themselves."

"I believe the principle fault of the majority of writers and artists is having neither the will nor the courage to break with their successes, failing to seek new paths and give birth to new ideas. Most of them produce them twice, three, even four times. They have neither the courage nor the temerity to leave what is certain for what is uncertain. There is, however, no greater pleasure than going into the depth of oneself, setting one's whole being in motion and seeking for new and hidden treasures. What a joy to finde something new in oneself, something that surprises even ourselves, filling us with warmth."

'L’après-midi d’un faune' (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) is considered one of the first examples of modern classical music.  

'Clair de Lune' is the third movement of his 'Suite Bergamasque' which was first composed around 1890. 

 The title is from the poem by Paul Verlaine.

'La Mer, trois esquisses symphoniques pour orchestre' (The Sea, three symphonic sketches for orchestra)

"From dawn to midday on the sea" - very slowly (B minor)
"De l'aube à midi sur la mer" - très lent (si mineur)

"Play of the Waves" - allegro (C sharp minor)
"Jeux de vagues" - allegro (do dièse mineur)

"Dialogue of the wind and the sea"  - animated and tumultuous (C sharp minor)
"Dialogue du vent et de la mer" - animé et tumultueux (do dièse mineur)

'Children's Corner' (L. 113) is a six-movement suite for solo piano that was dedicated to his daughter, Claude-Emma ( "Chou-Chou").  The English titles were inspired by her English governess.

1.   Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum    
2.   Jimbo's Lullaby                     
3.  Serenade for the Doll     
4.  The Snow is Dancing        
5.  The Little Shepherd   
6.  Golliwogg's Cakewalk

No comments:

Post a Comment