Debussy: Musician of France

By Victor I. Seroff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
PRIX DE ROME (PART II)

THE SHORT EXCURSION to Paris did not affect Debussy's feeling toward the Villa Medici. Upon his return he hated it just as much as before. And his letters to Vasnier were replicas of those he had already written him many times -- all of them as if according to the formula he contrived when he first came to Rome. He usually said that he was not going to complain and then did nothing else for the rest of the letter. But as time went on his irritation with Vasnier's sermons became more apparent, although it was always expressed in the most careful terms.

To please Vasnier he let himself "be dragged to the Sistine Chapel, as if to the gallows," and to the museums; he would have appreciated the masterpieces more if they were in Paris, he said. He preferred Raphael Loggias to the large compositions of the School of Athens, and Signorelli "La Résurrection des morts" amazed him, "not merely because the angels in it play trumpets." But he stubbornly maintained that the seduction that the contemplation of a masterpiece produces on the imagination demands an entirely different state of mind than was his at that time.

It was Debussy's nature to be influenced by his surroundings -- he said that Rome crushed him, annihilated him, that he suffocated and was absolutely incapable of shaking off the horrible "numbness" which made him see things in a detestable light. He had worked himself up into such an emotional state that he was afraid he would lose all sense of beauty, and he believed (or at least he

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