Debussy: Musician of France

By Victor I. Seroff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
BACKGROUND

DURING WORLD WAR I when France was struggling against her most formidable foe, when heroic deeds on the battlefield and civilian contributions to the war effort were being rewarded with medals, citations and patriotic acclaim, Debussy, too old and ill to take part in the national defense, proudly signed his compositions "Claude Debussy, musicien français." This he maintained was the highest honor he could claim. But the name of Claude de France, as Gabriel d'Annunzio, the Italian poet, called him, was more appropriate to the outward splendor in which the composer lived at this time.

12 Square de Bois de Boulogne in Paris is an exquisite private house with a beautifully kept lawn, guarded by a high iron fence. No street noises of the busy metropolis reach this spot, well sheltered by the mansions of "the rich and mighty" along the Avenue Général Foch leading from the Étoile into the Bois de Boulogne. Here was the home of Claude Debussy during the last thirteen years of his life. It was not, however, a family estate. The composer's genealogy does not intertwine with that of the Counts de Bussy of Burgundy who once lived at Bussy-le-Grand in the famous wine province, although it has been related that, like the composer, a twelfth century Count de Bussy had a prominent forehead. Madame de Sevigné's cousin, he was known as Roger BussyRabutin, a warrior and writer whose escapades with women were his other principal distinction.

Claude Debussy never spoke of possible ties with this family,

-13-

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