Claude Debussy


Claude Debussy (1862-1918) is seen as the great innovator in classical music. His best known composition is probably Clair de Lune from the Suite bergamasque. Between 1873 and 1886, Debussy studied the piano under Antoine François Marmontel and theory under Albert Lavignac. He then studied harmony under Émile Duran and for a short time improvisation with Auguste Franck. In 1879 Debussy came into contact with Madame Marie-Blanche Vasnier. Her cultural circle was very important for the composer. Debussy dedicated several of his early songs to her. The same year that he met Vasnier, Debussy travelled via Florence and Venice to Moscow, accompanying Nadezhda von Meck, Tchaikovsky’s guardian. In 1884 Debussy was awarded the Prix de Rome for his cantata L’enfant prodigue. Ten years later his orchestral work Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune had its premiere. This was seen as one of the composer’s masterpieces. Another famous work by the Frenchman is the opera Pelléas et Mélisande (1893-1902). This work, based on a play by the Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck, constituted a milestone in the development of French music. It is the only opera he ever wrote.