Debussy, Claude

Claude Debussy is a French composer who straddles the 19th and the 20th century. A free and contrarian composer, Debussy has often been qualified as a musical impressionist, a label he has never accepted. His music gives colour and instrumental timbres a place of honour.

Debussy started his musical education at the Conservatoire de Paris where he followed Ernest Guiraud's composition classes and for a while César Franck's organ class. As a student, he already reveals a complicated and elusive personality.

In 1884, Debussy wins the Prix de Rome first prize but his residence at the Villa Medicis will be the breaking point with academicism. Not doing well in exil, the composer quits after two years and comes back to Paris where he lives a bohemian life.

An admirer of Mallarmé as well as a regular of his social events, Debussy is fascinated by symbolism. He draws his musical inspiration from this movement, notably the Prélude à l'après-midi d'un Faune from a Mallarmé poem.

The composer shows a musical boldness which won't be appreciated by many; for example, his opera Pélleas & Mélisande was very criticized at the beginning before being celebrated and played all over the world.

An artist with eclectic inspirations, he is notably fascinated by Middle-East music: the pentatonic scale, the whole tone scale, creating that way a unique and elusive musical universe.

Many composers have claimed to adhere to Debussy's legacy, such as Boulez and Dutilleux.

One of his works:

Pelléas & Mélisande (1893/1902)
opera in 5 acts — — timb. — 2 hpe — strings
Editions Durand - On purchase and hire

Claude Debussy's Complete Works:

This project centralizes the energy of musicologists and arouses a deep, systematic research based on the auscultation of autograph manuscripts and outlines, but also on the corrected proofs or the first editions noted by the composer when they exist.

Even though we could imagine the opposite, there is still a substantial core of works from Debussy which isn’t identified nor carefully classified in public or private librairies.

It’s largely due to Debussy himself, who has established a catalog of his works only once, in 1894.

That’s why we offer this critical edition, which required an extremely meticulous work.

Pierre Boulez about the critical edition

The brochure about the critical edition (EN)

Claude Debussy


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