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Written by: DanceDirectory

Composer Achille-Claude Debussy was one of the greatest composers of piano music. Just as his contemporary, the painter Degas, he was interested in ballet, but also enjoyed other forms of dance, such a jazz.

Claude Debussy was born in a poor Paris suburb on 22 August 1862. He was the eldest of five children and was constantly sent to stay in the busy Mediterranean port of Cannes with his aunt Clementine. She was the one who arranged piano lessons for young Claude when he was nine.

The wealthy patron Madame Mauté noticed Debussy’s obvious talent. She convinced his father that his eldest son should have formal musical training and at the age of 10 years, Claude Debussy entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1872.

Debussy remained there for 12 years. At first, his talents at the piano won him many prizes, but he later became more interested in composition. At the age of 18, he was able to progress from piano tuition to composition class.

In the summer of 1880, he became piano teacher to the children of the fabulously wealthy Russian heiress Madam Von Meck, who was also Tchaikovsky’s patron. She took Debussy to her grand palaces all over Europe.

In 1882, Debussy entered the music competition, the Grand prix de Rome. This offered as a prize, four years study at the prestigious Villa Medici in Rome. He did not win, but tried again and finally succeeded in 1884.

Debussy did not like Rome and described it as a town of marble, fleas and boredom and after two years, he returned to Paris, where he soon became the centre of attention amongst a circle of young French artists, writers and poets. These young men were the leaders of the Symbolist and Impressionist literary and artistic movements of the late 1880s. Debussy loved art and literature as well as music. He admired the new school of Impressionism and his compositions are often described as impressionistic works.

In his early twenties, Debussy lived in the Montmartre district of Paris. He enjoyed the bustling street life and bohemian atmosphere and in keeping with his bohemian lifestyle, he kept a succession of mistresses, but in October 1899, he married a conventional, innocent dressmaker, Rosalie (Lily) Texier. Their marriage seemed to have a calming influence on Debussy’ s life, and it was during this time that he finally established his reputation as a major force in French music. His only opera, Pelléas and Mélisande, which had taken him 10 years to complete, was finally performed in 1902 and was greeted with wild enthusiasm.

In 1903 Debussy met the beautiful Jewish heiress Emma Bardac, whom he married in 1908. Debussy left his old lifestyle behind and concentrated on providing a secure home life for Emma and their daughter Claude- Emma. She inspired him to write several major works with children in mind, including Children’s Corner Suite in 1908.

In 1910, when he was 47, he was diagnosed with cancer of the rectum. In 1914, the great war broke out and he stayed in Paris during the heaviest of the German bombardments, composing his beautiful series of Etudes in 1915.

Achille-Claude Debussy died in Paris on 25 March 1918.


Orchestral: Includes Printemps, Nocturnes, La mer, Images, Fantaisies, Rapsodie.

Piano pieces:
Include Deux arabesques, Suite bergamasque, Images I, Images II, Children’s corner suite, Petite suite, March ecossaise, En blanc et noir ( for 2 pianos)

Debussy also wrote Chamber music, Songs and one Opera.

Image Credits:



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