Claude Debussy's Pianistic Vision






Debussy Chronology

1862 Born August 22, 23 Rue Pain, St Germain-en Laye, to Manuel-Achille Debussy and Victorine Manoury.

1864 Baptised, moved to Clichy.

1869-70 Travelled to Cannes with his aunt Clementine, where he had first piano lessons with Jean Cerutti.

1871 Met Madame Mauté de Fleurville, Paul Verlaine's mother-in-law and a student of Frederic Chopin.

1872 October 22, Admitted to Paris Conservatory, studied solfege with Lavignac and piano with Marmontel.

1876 Started study of Harmony with ´Emile Durand.

1877 Awarded 2nd prize for piano, 1st prize for solfege in Paris.

1879 Did not win 1st prize in piano and abandoned hope of being virtuoso

1880 Won first prize in score-reading and entered composition class of Ernest Guiraud. Met Madame von Meck Tchaikovsky's Patron, and traveled with her to Interlaken Switzerland, Arcachon France, and Florence Italy.

1881 Worked toward the Priz de Rome. traveled to Moscow with Madame von Meck, had affair with Madame Vasnier.

1882 Read poetry of Mallarmé and Verlaine. Dedicated first Fetes galantes to Madame Vasnier. Visited Plechtchevo, Moscow, and Vienna. First printing of Nuit d'etoiles.

1883 Won 2nd Prix de Rome with his Cantata Le Gladiateur.

1884 Won 1st Prix de Rome with L'enfant Prodigue. Heard 1st Act of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.

1885 Reluctantly traveled to Villa Medici in Rome, met Liszt, Verdi, and the librettist Boito.

1886 Returned to Paris, wrote Printemps, then returned to Rome.

1887 Returned to Paris to live with parents at 27 Rue de Berlin (road has been renamed, I do not know where it is), met Mallarme's circle, met Brahms in Vienna, visited London.

1888 First visit to Bayreuth, heard Parsifal and die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Finished La Damaoiselle elue in Paris, lived with Gaby Dupont.

1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. Gamelan, Java, Russian, Japanese influences. Encountered Mussorgsky's Boris Gudonov with Clock Scene with 2 dominant ninth chords a tritone apart, symmetrical and octatonic construction Debussy later adapted. Russian influence was paramount in evolution of his abstract language which replaced tonality. Finised Cinq Poemes of Baudelaire. Returned to Bayreuth to hear Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.

1890 Suite Bergamasque

1891 Met his good friend Eric Satie who was a pianist in a Montmartre cafe. Explored the music halls of Montmartre, paved the way for the Prelude Minstrels and Golliwog's Cakewalk, among others.

1892 First saw Pelleas et Melisande, and set incidental music to it. Also started L'Apres-midi d'une faune.

1893 Started opera based on Pelleas. Visited Ernest Chausson often in Luzancy. Moved with parents to a rooming house at 42 Rue de Londres, and later with Gaby Dupont to 10 Rue Gustave-Dore.

1894 Prelude á l'Apres-midi d'un faune was performed at Societe Nationale. Started violin and orchestra version of Nocturnes.

1895 Pelleas 1st verson completed.

1896 Started Pour le Piano.

1897 Orchestrated Satie's Deux Gymnopedies.

1898 Split with Gaby Dupont, moved to 58 Rue Cardinet.

1899 Married Lily Texier October 19. Completed 2nd version of the Nocturnes for Orchestra.

1900 Camille Chevilland, conductor, led the Nocturnes to critical and popular acclaim.

1901 Debussy accepted position as music critic for Le Revue blanche.

1902 Pelleas performance at the Opera Comique created a scandal, Debussy wrote libretto for an opera on Edgar Allan Poe's Devil in the Belfry, and planned to write one for Shakespeare's As You Like it.

1903 wrote Estampes, music critic for Gil Blas. Met Emma Bardac.

1904 Left Lily Texier, who attemped suicide. Established household with Emma Bardac.

1905 Claude-Emma (Chou-Chou) born, moved from 19 Avenue Alphand to courtyard #24 behind 80 Bois du Boulogne with Emma. Divorced Lily August 2, La Mer performed October 15. Completed Images I for piano.

1907 Completed Images II for piano, considered opera based on Tristan. Pelleas performed in Brussels in January, Frankfurt in April.

1908 Conducted La Mer and L'Apres midi in Queen's Hall, London, February 1. Started Fall of the House of Usher Opera and sold rights to Metropolitan Opera. Pelleas performed in Lyon, Milan, Munich, Berlin, and New York. Children's Corner published.

1909 Conducted Nocturnes in London, Pelleas performed at Covent Garden, cancer diagnosed and had surgery, Biography of Debussy by Louis Laloy published, became member of Council of Superiors of the Conservatory. Traveled to Pourville July-October.

1910 Preludes I published, conducted in Budapest and Vienna, Chinese art exhibition in Paris, Debussy's father died.

1911 Le Martyre de St Sebastien performed unsuccessfully May 22, conducted in Turin, traveled to Houlgate in August.

1912 Nijinsky and Diaghilev do ballet L'Apres Midi May 29 that Debussy disliked, but collaborate with Debussy on Jeux. Debussy acted as critic for SIM.

1913 Jeux premiered unsuccessfully May 15, set 3 songs to Mallarme, Preludes II published, traveled to Moscow and St Petersburg.

1914 Traveled to Rome, La Haye, Amsterdam. Wrote Bercuese Héroique.

1915 Wrote En blanc et noir, Douze Etudes, Sonata for cello and piano, Sonata for flute, viola, and harp, Noel des enfants qui n'ont plus de maison. Debussy's mother died, Debussy's cancer worsened.

1916 Wrote no music for a year. Reworked Fall of the House of Usher libretto.

1917 Finished Sonata for violin and piano, worked on As You Like it

1918 Died March 25th in Paris during one of the German bombing campaigns with the "Big Bertha" long range canons.