Debussy: Musician of France

By Victor I. Seroff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
FIRST AMOROUS ADVENTURE

MARMONTELpère was certainly the last person at the Paris Conservatory Debussy would have suspected of having any interest in his future. Yet it was the old professor who suggested Achille when he received a request for a good pianist from a foreigner living in Switzerland. For years the name of the grande dame was guessed wrongly and misspelled. She was referred to as Madame Meitch, the wife of a rich industrialist, or as Madame la baronne de Metch, or even as Madame Meuch. Debussy never spoke of this early adventure and few in France knew anything of the intimate lives of foreign musicians. Eventually, sentimental biographies of Peter Tchaikovsky have disclosed the name of the grande dame, the "beloved friend" of the Russian composer. But not until some twelve hundred of the two thousand letters they wrote each other were published in the U.S.S.R.1 during 1934-1936 was it possible to have a true picture of the woman and the young Debussy's connection with her.

Madame Nadeida von Meck was a Russian of middle class who acquired her titled German name through her marriage to Karl von Meck, a railroad engineer, originally from the Baltic region in the old Russian Empire. During the first few years of this union the von Mecks were poor, living at times on "ten cents a day," but this did not deter them from having eleven children.

An opportunity for a better life came in the early 1860's when,

____________________
1
Tchaikovsky's Correspondence with N. F. von Meck (Perepiska s N.F. von Mekk), 3 vols. (Vol. I, 1876-8; Vol. II, 1879-81; Vol. III, 1882-90).

-31-

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