Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Claude Debussy

Contributing Author:  Anastasia Meredith Oh 

Claude Debussy was born in 1862. His parents owned a shop, and his mother was a seamstress. He was French, and composed impressionist music. He started piano lessons at age seven, with an elderly Italian gentleman. At eleven years old he was entered into the Piano Conservatoire. He stayed in the Conservatoire for twelve years, and studied many other instruments such as organ and solfeggio.
He started giving piano lessons to a patron of Tchaikovsky’s children, and began accompanying a singer to earn a little money. She is said to have given him emotion and professional support.
Debussy won the Prix de Rome, and was admitted under scholarship to Académie du beaux arts.
He was inspired by Wagner’s chords and harmonies in his pieces, but in the end, Debussy chose a different style.

Early Works

Debussy used the notes from the pentatonic scale and the whole tone scale. Some of his pieces were inspired by Wagner, but not many. Debussy chose to break away from the simple A-B-A formation of pieces, which had been the main structure of music since Haydn.

Claude wrote three Nocturnes, in 1899. The had huge contrast to the Wagnerian style. Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande was premiered in 1901. This took ten years to write, and was his only complete opera. This was a hugely influential piece for the young French composers.

La Mer was a symphonic piece which had a large range of “Colors”.
In 1901, Debussy wrote a set of pieces for piano, pour le piano. These pieces had texture, and harmonies, which would prove important in the creation of jazz music. These were similar to Chopin.

In his late works, Debussy wrote some ballets for Ballets Russes. He also wrote some violin, harp and flute sonatas, although these had thinner texture. He also wrote another set of piano sonatas, which included his most famous pieces. The Pianist Claudio Arrau regarded his piece canope to be his greatest piece.
Many operas were started, although due to his death, none of them were finished. These were based on Shakespeare’s As you like it and The fall of the house of Usher and Joseph Bendier’s La Legende de Tristan.
Debussy had a turbulent private life, he fancied Gabrielle Dupont for nine years, before he decided to marry her friend Rosalie Texier, who was a fashion model. In 1904 he left her for Emma Bardac, who was the wife of a Parisian banker.

On March 25th 1918, Claude Debussy died of Cancer, he was surrounded by German artillery during the spring outbreak of world war one.

He had many influences on other composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Olivier Messiaen, Bela Bartok, Pierre Boulez, Henri Dutilleux, and the minimalist music of Steve Reich. Debussy will always be remembered amongst the musical community. He was a brilliant composer, and his music will go on forever.