1985

1985 (2018) – A film by Yen Tan – Cory Michael Smith, Virginia Madsen, Michael Chiklis, Jamie Chung

Friday, December 28, 2018

100th anniversary of the death of Claude Debussy – All the posts











Embracing nontraditional scales and tonal structures, Claude Debussy is one of the most highly regarded composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is seen as the founder of musical impressionism.

Claude Debussy was born into a poor family in France in 1862, but his obvious gift at the piano sent him to the Paris Conservatory at age 11. At age 22, he won the Prix de Rome, which financed two years of further musical study in the Italian capital. After the turn of the century, Debussy established himself as the leading figure of French music. During World War I, while Paris was being bombed by the German air force, he succumbed to colon cancer at the age of 55.


Achille-Claude Debussy was born on August 22, 1862, in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, the oldest of five children. While his family had little money, Debussy showed an early affinity for the piano, and he began taking lessons at the age of 7. By age 10 or 11, he had entered the Paris Conservatory, where his instructors and fellow students recognized his talent but often found his attempts at musical innovation strange.

In 1880, Nadezhda von Meck, who had previously supported Russian composer Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, hired Claude Debussy to teach piano to her children. With her and her children, Debussy traveled Europe and began accumulating musical and cultural experiences in Russia that he would soon turn toward his compositions, most notably gaining exposure to Russian composers who would greatly influence his work.

In 1884, when he was just 22 years old, Debussy entered his cantata L'Enfant prodigue (The Prodigal Child) in the Prix de Rome, a competition for composers. He took home the top prize, which allowed him to study for three years in the Italian capital, though he returned to Paris after two years. While in Rome, he studied the music of German composer Richard Wagner, specifically his opera Tristan und Isolde. Wagner's influence on Debussy was profound and lasting, but despite this, Debussy generally shied away from the ostentation of Wagner's opera in his own works.

Debussy returned to Paris in 1887 and attended the Paris World Exposition two years later. There he heard a Javanese gamelan – a musical ensemble composed of a variety of bells, gongs, metallophones and xylophones, sometimes accompanied by vocals – and the subsequent years found Debussy incorporating the elements of the gamelan into his existing style to produce a wholly new kind of sound.

The music written during this period came to represent the composer's early masterpieces – Ariettes oubliées (1888), Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun; completed in 1892 and first performed in 1894) and the String Quartet (1893) – which were clearly delineated from the works of his coming mature period.

Debussy's seminal opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, was completed in 1895 and was a sensation when first performed in 1902, though it deeply divided listeners (audience members and critics either loved it or hated it). The attention gained with Pelléas, paired with the success of Prélude in 1892, earned Debussy extensive recognition. Over the following 10 years, he was the leading figure in French music, writing such lasting works as La Mer (The Sea; 1905) and Ibéria (1908), both for orchestra, and Images (1905) and Children's Corner Suite (1908), both for solo piano.

Around this same time, in 1905, Debussy's Suite bergamasque was published. The suite is comprised of four parts – "Prélude", "Menuet", "Clair de lune" (now regarded as one of the composer's best-known pieces) and "Passepied".

Claude Debussy spent his remaining years writing as a critic, composing and performing his own works internationally. He died of colon cancer on March 25, 1918, when he was just 55 years old, in Paris.

Today, Debussy is remembered as a musical legend, whose uniquely structured compositions have served as a base for musicians over the past century, and will undoubtedly continue to inspire musical creation for decades to come.

Source: biography.com


Claude Debussy: Poèmes – Stella Doufexis, Daniel Heide (Audio video)

It is sometimes a shock to hear a mezzo sing this music, especially when we have had the bright-toned Debussy albums from Natalie Dessay on Virgin Classics and from Lorna Anderson and Lisa Milne on Hyperion so recently, but what a lovely discovery the Greek-German Stella Doufexis is. Her textually aware, warm-toned, luminous mezzo doesn't weigh the material down at all, given that many of the songs were written with the coloratura muse Marie-Blanche Vasnier in mind. Indeed, what pour out of the album are hidden depths to these sensual works.

This hour-long program neatly covers the full extent of Debussy's song writing career, sung pretty much chronologically, from his teenage gems like the 1880's Nuit d'etoiles, to the three Stéphane Mallarmé settings of 1913, where the piano writing becomes far more sophisticated and harmonically complex. Doufexis adapts mercurially to the conflicting challenges of each song; playful and alluring in Clair de lune, rapt and wheedling in Crois mon conseil, chère Climène, and wide-eyed and girlish in Fleur de blés. Every word of the text is felt and savored, but never at the expense of that opaque, exquisitely colored mezzo. She ends with the five Charles Baudelaire settings from 1889, which although written midway through his life, demonstrate his most advanced, Wagnerian-tinged style. She is breathtaking and ethereal in the tailing off of Harmonie de soir, and she is intimate rather than cold and distant in the elusive La mort des amants...

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Claude Debussy, the First Modernist – An article by John Adams in the New York Times

In 1890, the 28-year-old Claude Debussy felt forced to write the archetypal starving-artist letter to a friend. "Forgive me, but could you lend me 20 francs until the end of the month", he pleaded. "I'm very ashamed at writing to you, but I'm desperately hungry." This was the same Debussy who within the next dozen years would produce some of the most radically original, influential and popular of all European art music.

Hungry he may well have been (according to another friend, the composer could afford neither to eat nor to clothe himself), but "desperate" is a word almost impossible to associate with this most fastidious and discriminating of composers. Perhaps, as Stephen Walsh muses in his new biographical study, "Debussy: A Painter in Sound", he was merely resorting to his skills as "an adept borrower". Money and the practical necessities of life would remain a lifelong torment for him, an artist forever locked into his own internal world of sounds and images...

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“Debussy: one of the most original of moderns”, 1908, & “French composer Claude Debussy dies”, 1918 – Two articles from the Guardian archive

Debussy: one of the most original of ‘moderns’

2 February 1908: On his first visit to London, The Observer reviews Claude Debussy conducting his works at the Queen's Hall

M. Claude Debussy, who by nature is almost as shy and retiring as his music is diaphanous, came to London during the week and appeared as conductor at the Symphony Concert of the Queen's Hall Orchestra yesterday. It was decidedly interesting to see this imaginative modern in the flesh and to hear his interpretation of two of his works. His appearance in our concert-room emphasises rather curiously the extreme slowness of our methods in matters operatic, or, perhaps it would be better to say, our strange attitude towards the lyric art...



French composer Claude Debussy dies

27 March 1918: Of all composers in our day Debussy has the finest aesthetic. He has left us a world of beautiful music

The famous French composer Claude Achille Debussy, who had been suffering from cancer, has died in Paris at the age of 55. Debussy is not only the most original but the most refined and, since Berlioz, the first truly modern composer of the French school.

His first works gave merely the sense of an exquisite refinement and freshness, and when in 1884 he won the Rome prize with his scenic cantata L'Enfant Prodigue there was little to proclaim the most revolutionary of modern French harmonists. In the setting of Rossetti's poem The Blessed Damozel, for female voices and orchestra, he found a subject and a medium of expression as exquisite as even his imagination could desire...

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Javier Perianes plays Claude Debussy: Préludes Book I, & Estampes (Audio video)

A century after his death on March 25, 1918, many harmonia mundi artists are eager to pay tribute to Claude Debussy, the magician of melody and timbre, the great "colourist" and father of modern music. Javier Perianes, for his part, wanted to come back to these Préludes that are so close to his heart, after an earlier album devoted to the intangible links between Chopin and Debussy. This First Book, presented here in its entirety alongside the sublime Estampes, plunges us into the heart of music capable of dictating its title to each piece... beneath the final double bar...

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Claude Debussy: Violin Sonata in G minor – Renaud Capuçon, Lahav Shani (HD 1080p)

The French violinist Renaud Capuçon and the Israeli pianist and conductor Lahav Shani perform Claude Debussy's Violin Sonata in G minor, L.140. Recorded live at the auditorium de la Maison de la Radio, in Paris, on May 18, 2018.

Debussy's Sonata for violin and piano, third in a projected series of six chamber sonatas, was the last work the composer completed before his death in 1918. Progress on the sonata caused Debussy a great deal of frustration; in the end, he felt that it never really came together the way he had originally intended. Nevertheless, the work remains a powerful, forward-looking effort that manages to fuse elements of mainstream concert tradition with a wholehearted affinity for gypsy violin playing...

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Claude Debussy: Préludes, Books I & II – Walter Gieseking (Audio video)

Originally recorded in 1953 and 1954 in monaural sound, Walter Gieseking's magisterial performances of Debussy's Préludes were first released on CD in 1987 as a single disc, and they have been reissued in various guises many times since. Gieseking more or less owned these pieces during his lifetime and his performances have been judged as definitive by many critics since they were first issued on LP. Some have rightfully regretted that the pianist's technique was not more polished and that these recordings were not clearer and cleaner. But few have complained about Gieseking's obvious deep affection for the music or about his poetic and evocative readings of these masterpieces. Any listener who reveres Debussy and has never heard these performances should be interested in this disc...

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Claude Debussy: Violin Sonata in G minor – Alina Pogostkina, Jérôme Ducros (HD 1080p)

The Russian-born German violinist Alina Pogostkina and the French pianist Jérôme Ducros perform Claude Debussy's Violin Sonata in G minor, L.140. Recorded live at Solsberg Festival, Stadtkirche St Martin, Rheinfelden, Switzerland, on June 11, 2016.

Debussy's Sonata for violin and piano, third in a projected series of six chamber sonatas, was the last work the composer completed before his death in 1918. Progress on the sonata caused Debussy a great deal of frustration; in the end, he felt that it never really came together the way he had originally intended. Nevertheless, the work remains a powerful, forward-looking effort that manages to fuse elements of mainstream concert tradition with a wholehearted affinity for gypsy violin playing...

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Claude Debussy: La Mer – Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Fabien Gabel (HD 1080p)

Under the baton of the French conductor Fabien Gabel, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra performs Claude Debussy's La Mer. Recorded at Orchestra Hall, Max M. Fisher Music Center, Detroit, in November 2015.

Claude Debussy's rich and evocative depiction of the underwater realm remains an impressionistic milestone, a classic of its type. But what makes La Mer so good?

Ever-resistant to the confines of normal practice, impressionist composer Claude Debussy insisted that his La Mer was not a symphony. No, even though it contains three symphonic movements that could quite happily be classified as a symphony. Debussy preferred to call it a set of "symphonic sketches" – something of a milestone in itself...

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Claude Debussy: Les Trois Sonates (The Late Works) – Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Javier Perianes, Xavier de Maistre, Antoine Tamestit, Magali Mosnier, Tanguy de Williencourt (Audio video)

Isabelle Faust (violin), Alexander Melnikov (piano), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Javier Perianes (piano), Xavier de Maistre (harp), Antoine Tamestit (viola), Magali Mosnier (flute), and Tanguy de Williencourt (piano) interpret Claude Debussy's the Three Sonatas (Sonata for violin and piano in G minor, Sonata for flute, viola and harp in F major, and Sonata for cello and piano in D minor), and four piano pieces (Berceuse héroïque, Page d'album, Élégie, and Les Soirs illuminés par l'ardeur du charbon). Recorded in 2016 (December), 2017 (June) and 2018 (January-February) at Médiapôle Saint-Césaire, Impasse de Mourgues, Arles, France.

Described as "testamentary" on its back cover, the latest release in Harmonia Mundi's Debussy anniversary series is perhaps more an act of commemorative reflection than an overt celebration of his genius. It gathers together, by no means for the first time on disc, the Three Sonatas, written between 1915 and 1917 as the First World War destroyed Debussy's world and cancer slowly ravaged his body. They're framed and separated here, however, by his four last, rarely heard piano pieces, all of them ostensibly pièces d'occasion, though they're linked by a deep, sometimes despairing sadness that reveals much about the anguish of his final years...

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Claude Debussy: La Mer – Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Jacek Kaspszyk (HD 1080p)

The distinguished Polish conductor Jacek Kaspszyk conducts Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra in Claude Debussy's "La Mer". Recorded at Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall in Warsaw, Poland, on January 27, 2018.

Claude Debussy's rich and evocative depiction of the underwater realm remains an impressionistic milestone, a classic of its type. But what makes La Mer so good?

Ever-resistant to the confines of normal practice, impressionist composer Claude Debussy insisted that his La Mer was not a symphony. No, even though it contains three symphonic movements that could quite happily be classified as a symphony. Debussy preferred to call it a set of "symphonic sketches" – something of a milestone in itself...

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Claude Debussy: Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune – National Youth Orchestra of the USA, Valery Gergiev (HD 1080p)

Claude Debussy's "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune" peformed by the National Youth Orchestra of the USA conducted by Valery Gergiev. Recorded at Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, on July 21, 2016.

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, known in English as Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, is a symphonic poem for orchestra by Claude Debussy, approximately 10 minutes in duration. It was first performed in Paris on December 22, 1894, conducted by Gustave Doret. The flute solo was played by Georges Barrère.

Debussy's work later provided the basis for the ballet Afternoon of a Faun choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky and a later version by Jerome Robbins.

The original orchestral version was completed in 1894, and Debussy reworked it for performance on two pianos in 1895...

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Claude Debussy and the Poetic Image

Similar to Impressionism, Debussy's works typically suggest a mood or atmosphere, rather than expressing a strong emotion or depicting a narrative or story.

By Megan Reich

March 29, 2018

The 100th anniversary of Debussy's death was this past March 25th. Debussy's adventurous uses of harmony and orchestration would come to impact nearly every distinguished composer of the early and middle twentieth century. His music leaves behind classical structures and agendas and moves toward beauty for beauty's sake. One experiences a profound sense of dreamlike improvisation and wandering when listening to Debussy's music.

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Nikolai Lugansky plays Claude Debussy: Suite bergamasque, Deux Arabesques, and οther works for solo piano (Audio video)

The distinguished Russian pianist Nikolai Lugansky plays works for solo piano by Claude Debussy. The cd recorded in 2018, at Médiapôle Saint-Césaire, Impasse de Mourgues, Arles, France.

Harmonia Mundi's centenary edition of the works of Claude Debussy necessarily includes several different interpretations of his keyboard music, and Nikolai Lugansky's single-disc contribution offers only a selection of well-known pieces, featuring the Suite bergamasque and including L'Isle joyeuse, the Deux Arabesques, La plus que lente, Jardins sous la pluie, three pieces from Images II, and the Hommage à Haydn. For the most part, this is an album of reflective pieces that don't require a big sound, and the program shows mostly Lugansky's quiet side, emphasizing his polished technique and ability to glide nearly effortlessly over the keys with a delicate touch and warm tone...

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100 Years After Debussy's Death, He Remains the First ‘Modern’ Composer – An essay on Claude Debussy by Stephen Hough in the New York Times

Celebrating Debussy’s slinking, sparkling piano works

By Stephen Hough

March 2, 2018

When I strike a chord on the piano, more is heard than those notes alone. The other strings vibrate with sympathetic overtones, forming a halo over every note. Claude Debussy, who died a hundred years ago, was perhaps the first composer to write with this quality specifically in mind, to consciously harness it as part of his creative process.

Although it was Debussy's orchestral work "Prélude à L'Après-midi d'un Faune" that Pierre Boulez described as "the beginning of modern music", it was always at the piano where his revolutionary new approach to form and timbre developed.

With "Pagodes", the first piece of his triptych "Estampes" (1903), we hear something totally fresh. Yes, Debussy had heard Javanese gamelan music at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in the summer of 1889 and had written with great admiration about its complexity and sophistication. But his use of its tonal color (loosely, the pentatonic scale – the black notes on a piano) is not so much a translation of a foreign text as it is a poem written in a newly learned, fully absorbed language...

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Terrified and delighted: Works by Claude Debussy and André Caplet inspired by Edgar Allan Poe – Musicians from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Is it surprised you want to be, perhaps even frightened, you should definitely catch on to the musicians from the Gothenburg Symphony when they play French works inspired by Edgar Allan Poe.

The musicians from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra begin with deceptively beautiful music by Debussy, the Danses for Harp and String Quartet, giving them a firm grip of the audience, later the music of André Caplet, student to and friend of Debussy.

The concert was recorded at Gothenburg Concert Hall, Chamber Hall, Stenhammarsalen, on November 6, 2016...


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Claude Debussy: Suite bergamasque, Pour le piano, Estampes, Images (oubliées) – Zoltán Kocsis (Audio video)

This is a recital of notably sensitive playing, but with too little of the mature composer to make a satisfying programme in itself. ''Clair de lune'' aside, there is not much real Debussy in Suite bergamasque, yet Kocsis does the Prelude, Menuet and Passepied – neo-classical before their time – as well as almost anyone can, with a discreet combination of delicacy and strength. The moonstruck movement itself is delivered with uncommon restraint. Debussy's Images oubliees, as they are sometimes called, were published quite recently, and the second and third are earlier versions of the Sarabande in Pour le piano and ''Jardins sous la pluie'' from Estampes. Some may question the wisdom of placing provisional and final versions on the same record; comparisons are unavoidable and entirely to the advantage of the latter...

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Claude Debussy: Images, D'un cahier d'esquisses, L'Isle joyeuse, Deux arabesques, etc. – Zoltán Kocsis (Audio video)

Gramophone, Instrumental Award 1990

Zoltan Kocsis is certainly one of the most talented pianists of our time and in the two books of Debussy's Images one can hear him at something like his peak. As soon as he plays the first few bars of ''Reflets dans l'eau'' one is engulfed in the extreme refinement of the sound. The shimmering lights on the water's surface come and go in the most fascinating manner...

In the Second Book the images are more specific. I felt that in ''Cloches a travers les feuilles'' Kocsis handled the initial right-hand theme too heavily, but none the less there is a wonderful sense of light and of the mysterious medley of shadows and delicate sounds playing on the ground and in the air. Kocsis has an ability to layer and control the dynamics between his hands that is quite superb. The classical purity and serenity of ''Et la lune descend'' are also caught with amazing insight and culture. The Images close with ''Poissons d'or'', in which the agitated fish appear and disappear in the water in an almost impudent manner; there is real humour and spontaneity here...

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