Claude Debussy Sesquicentennial

Note: Composer Claude Debussy’s 150th birthday was this year (August 22). And, while I can read music and play the flute, I am not a professional musician in the least! This is merely a short and unabashed tribute with music samples.

Claude Debussy (Photo source: Wikipedia)

In 199o, I saw the controversial NC-17 rated film Henry & June; in fact, I watched at least a dozen people walk out of my theater. While the movie was definitely provocative, it was the gorgeous soundtrack that sang to me. It was the first time I heard the lively and energetic “Petit Suite Ballet,” the exotic “Pour L’Egyptienne,” the romantic “La Plus que Lente,” and the haunting “Sonata for Violin and Piano.”

I was entranced.

For me, Debussy’s music always evokes images of nature, gardens, and the sea. In other words, dreamlike qualities. Indeed, he was part of an era in music called impressionism, although he himself disliked that affiliation. Just like the art period of the same name, Debussy lived in a world that also knew artist Claude Monet and composers Erik Satie, Maurice Ravel, and Gabriel Faure.

The library owns many recordings of Debussy’s works as well as sheet music and scores and books about his life and influence.

Who is your favorite classical composer? Why?

~Maria, who was dismayed to discover that Debussy’s music is very challenging for the flute!

7 Comments

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7 responses to “Claude Debussy Sesquicentennial

  1. lectorconstans

    “… challenging for the flute!”

    It’s all challenging. The thing is, the people who play it (like Galway and Rampal) are extremely good at what they do. The essence of artistry is to make the effort seem effortless.

    Just yesterday, I got a 2-CD album of Debussy from arkivmusic.com: “Essential Debussy” (26 pieces); performances by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, von Karajan & the Berlin Philharmonic, &c. &c. 2 hrs 53 min; $8.

    Essential Debussy

    He has one enchanting piece called “The Sunken Cathedral” (for piano).

    There are way too many composers to narrow it down to 1 or 2. I’d have to break it down int eras: really early, baroque, classical, romantic, modern. Then maybe even geographically: English, German, Italian, French, &c.

    At the top of the list, Bach. He wrote so much, for so many combinations of instruments. Part of the appeal for me is that it’s “absolute music” (the extreme opposite of Debussy): music for its own sake.

    One of the marks of good music – and a good performance – is that you can listen to it again and again and not get tired of it.

  2. JEM

    Composers from that era are among my favorites. I remember the first time I listened to Ravel and I was taken aback by the interesting and unexpected directions the melody and harmony went. Prior to this I had only been exposed to Mozart, Bach, Beethoven… you know the “major” or “popular” composers while playing violin in a high school orchestra (Violin). Ravel, Debussy, Bartok – opened up my ear to different depths of musical color and emotion. A few years ago I was fortunate to hear the DSO (Detroit Symphony Orchestra) play La Mer live at Orchestra Hall. It was so moving to hear the music hall filled with the ebb and flow of that piece.

  3. I love Debussy too: he really went his own way, diverging from the German Romantic tradition. I have not yet worked seriously on playing Debussy on flute, but did check out some scores from the library a while ago as a preview (I love the play-along CD arrangements).

  4. I confess to being a classical music neophyte, but my entry to Debussy comes from Art of Noise’s sublime album, “The Seduction of Claude Debussy,” wherein they re-work the master’s music into some amazing ambient and low intensity techno grooves. Well worth a listen, but alas, the Carnegie Library system does not have it.

    If you see it cheap somewhere, buy it!

    –Scott

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