Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

The songs

3 Chansons de Billitis (Pierre Louÿs)         Score          Pierre Louÿs



Claude Debussy was born on August 22, 1862 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. His parents soon moved to Paris, where he received his first piano lessons from an Italian teacher. In 1872 he was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire and received lessons in the subjects of piano and harmony. After giving up his virtuoso career, Debussy began to devote himself more to composition. From 1881 to 1882 he was resident pianist with Nadjeschda von Meck , Peter Tchaikovsky's patron, whom he visited in Moscow.

Although Debussy was a rebellious student and often deliberately broke the conventions of the Conservatoire, he received the 2nd Rome Prize in 1883. The Rome Prize was a composition scholarship from the Académie des Beaux-Arts, which entitles them to a three-year stay in a Roman villa. In 1884 he received the first Rome price for the cantata L'enfant prodigue and in early 1885 he traveled to Rome. In 1887, however, he returned to Paris out of dissatisfaction. Several visits to the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth followed, which initially made a big impression on Debussy. Another event that was significant for Debussy's musical development was the World Exhibition in Paris in 1889. Here he heard Javanese gamelan music, the elements of which found their way into some of his works.

From 1893 Debussy began work on his only completed opera Pelléas et Mélisande , which premiered in 1902. Other important works from this period are the Prelude à l'après-midi d'un Faune and the Nocturnes for orchestra. During this time there were also various mental crises, constant financial worries and relationship errors and confusions, which temporarily ended with the marriage to Lily Texier in 1899. Debussy began to publish a number of critical articles under the pseudonym Monsieur Croche and started a music writing activity from 1903.

Between 1903 and 1910 Debussy wrote some of his most important and popular works, such as La Mer for orchestra, and Estampes , Images , Childrens Corner and the first volume of the Preludes for piano. In 1908 he married Emma Bardac , with whom he had had a daughter named Chouchou since 1905. In the following years several concert tours followed, including to England, Italy and Holland. The Preludes Volume II , Images for Orchestra and the Ballet Jeux are works from this period. From 1915 a cancer began to make itself felt, which Debussy weakened more and more. He died in Paris on March 26, 1918.



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