Claude Debussy

Debussy, Claude Achille

Claude Achille Debussy (klôd äshēl´ dəbüsē´), 1862–1918, French composer, exponent of musical impressionism. He studied for 11 years at the Paris Conservatory, receiving its Grand Prix de Rome in 1884 for his cantata L'Enfant Prodigue. After traveling in Europe and Russia, Debussy settled down in Paris in 1887 and devoted himself to composing for the rest of his life. In his music he developed a new fluidity of form and explored unusual harmonic relationships and dissonances. By making use of the whole-tone scale, instead of the traditional scale of Western music, he achieved new nuances of mood and expression, as in his famous tone poem Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, 1894). Inspired by a pastoral poem of Mallarmé, it is one of Debussy's most sensuous and evocative orchestral works, lending itself perfectly to ballet. Other outstanding orchestral pieces are his Nocturnes (1899) and La Mer (The Sea, 1905). His piano works exploit to the utmost the subtle coloristic possibilities of the instrument. Among them are Suite bergamasque (pub. 1905), containing the popular Clair de lune; Estampes (1903); The Children's Corner (1908); 24 preludes, including La Cathédrale engloutie (1910); and 12 études. He also wrote many exquisite songs and an opera, Pelléas et Mélisande (1892–1902), based on the drama by Maeterlinck.

See reminiscences of Marguerite Long (tr. 1972); The Poetic Debussy: A Collection of His Song Texts and Selected Letters (ed. by M. G. Cobb, 1982); biographies by V. I. Seroff (1956) and E. Lockspeiser (2 vol., 1962–65, rev. ed. 1980).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Cambridge Companion to Debussy
Simon Trezise.
Cambridge University Press, 2003
Rethinking Debussy
Elliott Antokoletz; Marianne Wheeldon.
Oxford University Press, 2011
Debussy the Man, His Music, and His Legacy: An Overview of Current Research
Pasler, Jann.
Notes, Vol. 69, No. 2, December 2012
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Debussy and the Veil of Tonality: Essays on His Music
David Montgomery.
Pendragon Press, 2004
Debussy: Musician of France
Victor I. Seroff.
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1956
Musical Symbolism in the Operas of Debussy and Bartok: Trauma, Gender, and the Unfolding of the Unconscious
Elliott Antokoletz.
Oxford University Press, 2004
Debussy and the Fragment
Linda Cummins.
Rodopi, 2006
Images and Ideas in Modern French Piano Music: The Extra-Musical Subtext in Piano Works by Ravel, Debussy, and Messiaen
Siglind Bruhn.
Pendragon Press, 1997
Debussy as Storyteller: Narrative Expansion in the Trois Chansons De Bilitis
Gibbons, William.
Current Musicology, No. 85, Spring 2008
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Music of the Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde: A Biocritical Sourcebook
Larry Sitsky.
Greenwood Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "Claude Debussy (1862-1918)" begins on p. 124
Claude Debussy: His Life and Works
Léon Vallas; Marie O'Brien; Grace O'Brien.
Oxford University Press, 1933
A History of Western Music
Donald Jay Grout; Claude V. Palisca.
W. W. Norton, 2001 (6th edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Debussy" begins on p. 663
Stories of Symphonic Music: A Guide to the Meaning of Important Symphonies, Overtures, and Tone-Poems from Beethoven to Debussy
Lawrence Gilman.
Garden City Publishing, 1937
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator