Debussy: Musician of France

By Victor I. Seroff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX
ILLNESS

WITH HIS second marriage Debussy was to begin "a new life." Whether this optimistic dictum was realized to his satisfaction is a question not easily to be answered by an outsider. To be sure, he had at last achieved what he had been striving for all his life -- the décor, the surroundings he had always envied, and a luxury not to be compared with his past. From the modest little apartment where he lived with Lily he had moved to the most select residential section of Paris, near the Avenue de la Grande Armée and the Bois de Boulogne -- a long way from the Montmartre garret he once had shared with Gaby. Debussy's beautiful private home was decorated and furnished on a less theatrical scale than Richard Wagner's "Wahnfried" in Bayreuth, although the comparison may not be farfetched (only Debussy's was in good taste). There he lived, in the harmony of his family: his little daughter Chouchou whom he adored, and his wife, who anticipated his whims and shielded him from the "outside world." The "Claude" or "Monsieur Debussy" of Gaby's and Lily's days was referred to as "Le Maître."

He had achieved fame. His Pelléas had been translated into German, Italian and English. In 1907 it had a triumphant success in Brussels, where eight performances were given during four weeks. Two months later it was presented in Frankfurt and a year later in Munich and Berlin. In April, 1908, Toscanini conducted the first performance at La Scala in Milan and in 1909 it was played in Rome. Invariably Pelléas caused controversies and in Italy there were riots between those for and against the work. While Giulio

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