Debussy: Musician of France

By Victor I. Seroff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
INFLUENCES AND FIRST LOVE AFFAIR

A GREAT DEAL has been written by musicologists and Debussy's other biographers about the influence Russian music may have had on him. But among the compositions that are mentioned, Tchaikovsky's music is conspicuously absent. One might well imagine -- not without malice, I, admit -- that the nation-wide French dislike for Tchaikovsky was caused by the amount of his music France's most illustrious composer had to endure in his youth: he had heard enough to suffice the whole nation.

The references to Russian influence are concerned with the then- revolutionary group "The Mighty Five" ( Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, Moussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakoff) and in some instances it has been implied that Debussy met members of this group. Actually he never did. First of all, one must bear in mind that "The Mighty Five" lived in St. Petersburg and only occasionally visited Moscow, and Debussy did not go to St. Petersburg; and second, the St. Petersburg musicians were opposed to Tchaikovsky and his followers and it is certain that not one member of the group ever had any personal connections with Madame von Meck, Debussy's only possible link with them.

Lacking correct data on Debussy's journeys to Russia, it was assumed that he had met Moussorgsky and it was taken for granted that he had become acquainted with Balakirev, Borodin and Rimsky. Cui was left out, probably because his music was the least important (although it was Cui La musique en Russie that was to supply Debussy with many aesthetic concepts). This error resulted

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