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© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Claude Debussy: Selected full-text books and articles

The Cambridge Companion to Debussy By Simon Trezise Cambridge University Press, 2003
Rethinking Debussy By Elliott Antokoletz; Marianne Wheeldon Oxford University Press, 2011
Debussy the Man, His Music, and His Legacy: An Overview of Current Research By 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: Musician of France By Victor I. Seroff G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1956
Debussy and the Fragment By Linda Cummins Rodopi, 2006
Debussy as Storyteller: Narrative Expansion in the Trois Chansons De Bilitis By 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 By Larry Sitsky Greenwood Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "Claude Debussy (1862-1918)" begins on p. 124
Claude Debussy: His Life and Works By Léon Vallas; Marie O'Brien; Grace O'Brien Oxford University Press, 1933
A History of Western Music By Donald Jay Grout; Claude V. Palisca W. W. Norton, 2001 (6th edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Debussy" begins on p. 663
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