Claude Debussy's Pianistic Vision







80 Avenue du Bois de Boulogne- 24 Courtyard Foch (since c.1929 Ave Foch)

The Arc du Triumphe is a central area in Paris, no fewer than 12 major streets interesect here. Traffic is always very heavy, even at midnight. Avenue Foch, named in 1922 for a general in World War I in 1918 is 3 streets over from Avenue Marc Manon. When Debussy lived in a house behind this broad, parklike avenue, which is wider than the Champs Elysee, it was called the Ave. Bois du Boulagne as it leads directly to the park of that name. The Arc du Triumphe is the highest point in the area, the Tour Eiffel looms to the southwest.

Although Debussy was reclusive during this time of his life, he derived pleasure from tending to his garden. He took strolls along the broad expanse of the Avenue and the nearby Bois de Boulogne Park, where he played as a child.

October 28th, 2006, Marie Rolf related a story where she was able to enter his house, and see the mantle and areas where he had composed. November 20th, 2006, the little house is still intact, next door to the house owned by Arthur Rubinstein. It is now owned by a Saudi Princess who is there only a few weeks of the year. Many diplomats and dignataries live in this secluded courtyard.

In 2006, Avenue Foch is a wealthy area, with many newer buildings as well as richly restored older buildings. Some older trees remain, although workers were even removing trees as I passed, and the park lining the avenue on the north and south side the entire way feels more modern. Nonetheless, closer to the Parc Bois du Boulange, the trees are taller, the brush thicker as it is in the park, and some of the trees are large enough to have lived when Debussy walked the boulevard.

There is a broad view across the avenue to the south, with some trees in front and the eastern side of the park clearly visible. The park is to the right (west), the arc du Triumph to the left (east), and the elegant buildings which lined the boulevard in front, towards the south.

On the cold day I was there, Tuesday March 21st, 4 days before March 25th, the day Debussy died at this location in 1918, the leaves were still off the trees, some dead leaves remained on the ground, and in the misty air it felt much like fall or winter. The Porte Dauphine metro station is on the northern side of the avenue, the side of Debussy's house, and was surrounded by purple, yellow, and white crocuses, the only sign of impending spring.


Debussy lived in this house at 80 Avenue du Bois de Boulogne (24 Courtyard Foch) with Madame Bardac from 1904 until his death March 25th, 1918

Debussy said in an interview in 1908 that other people do not see what he saw in his garden at this location. He had all he needed for inspiration, for imagination, to compose. Although a railway went directly under his window he learned to filter the sound out, or perhaps assimilate it into his artistic vision.