Thursday, August 22, 2013

August 22 - Claude Debussy

Composer Claude Debussy was born on August 22, 1862, outside Paris. He began piano lessons at age 7 and spent 11 years in the Paris Conservatoire, starting at age 10. He was argumentative, challenging the rigidity of the academy, and experimented with dissonance. In the 1890s he was a frequent member of the Symbolist gatherings of poet Stéphane Mallarmé, and though he was influenced by the music of Richard Wagner, he preferred to compose in short, accessible musical forms. In 1894 he wrote his “Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune” (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun), a revolutionary “symphonic poem” for a small ensemble rather than an orchestra. It was inspired by a poem of the same title by Mallarmé, who initially objected to having his work transformed into music. It is titled a prelude because Debussy intended to write a three-movement suite. The work is considered pivotal in music history, a score (later turned into a ballet) that marks the origin of modernism in music. The opening flute solo is one of 20th-century music’s most memorable passages.

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