Claude DEBUSSY

Family tree of Claude DEBUSSY

Composer

FrenchBorn Achille Claude DEBUSSY

French composer

Born on August 22, 1862 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France , France

Died on March 25, 1918 in Paris, France

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Claude Debussy was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, the eldest of five children. His father, Manuel-Achille Debussy, owned a shop where he sold china and crockery, and his mother, Victorine Manoury Debussy, was a seamstress. The family moved to Paris in 1867, but in 1870 Debussy's pregnant mother sought refuge from the Franco-Prussian war with a paternal aunt of Claude's in Cannes. Debussy began piano lessons there at the age of seven years with an Italian violinist in his early forties named Cerutti; his lessons were paid for by his aunt. In 1871 he drew the attention of Marie Mauté de Fleurville, who claimed to have been a pupil of Frédéric Chopin. Debussy always believed her, although there is no independent evidence of her claim. His talents soon became evident, and in 1872, at age ten, Debussy entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he spent eleven years. During his time there he studied composition with Ernest Guiraud, music history/theory with Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray, harmony with Émile Durand, piano with Antoine François Marmontel, organ with César Franck, and solfège with Albert Lavignac, as well as other significant figures of the era. He also became a lifelong friend of fellow student and noted pianist Isidor Philipp. After Debussy's death, many pianists sought out Philipp for advice on playing his pieces.



From the start, though clearly talented, Debussy was argumentative and experimental. He challenged the rigid teaching of the Academy, favoring instead dissonances and intervals that were frowned upon. Like Georges Bizet, he was a brilliant pianist and an outstanding sight reader, who could have had a professional career as such had he so wished. The pieces he played in public at this time included sonata movements by Beethoven, Schumann and Weber; and Chopin – the Ballade No. 2, a movement from the Piano Concerto No. 1, and the Allegro de concert, a relatively little-known piece but one requiring an advanced technique (it was originally intended to be the opening movement of a third piano concerto).

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During the summers of 1880, 1881, and 1882 Debussy accompanied the wealthy patroness of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Nadezhda von Meck, as she traveled with her family in Europe and Russia. The young composer's many musical activities during these vacations included playing four-hand pieces with von Meck at the piano, giving her children music lessons, and performing in private concerts with some of her musician friends. Despite von Meck's closeness with Tchaikovsky, the Russian master appears to have had little or no effect on Debussy. In September 1880 she sent Debussy's Danse bohémienne for Tchaikovsky's perusal. A month later Tchaikovsky wrote back to her, "It is a very pretty piece, but it is much too short. Not a single idea is expressed fully, the form is terribly shriveled, and it lacks unity". Debussy did not publish the piece; the manuscript remained in the von Meck family, and it was sold to B. Schott's Sohne in Mainz, and published by them in 1932. A greater influence was Debussy's close friendship with Madame Vasnier, a singer he met when he began working as an accompanist to earn some money. She and her husband gave Debussy emotional and professional support. Monsieur Vasnier introduced him to the writings of influential French writers of the time, which gave rise to his first songs, settings of poems by Paul Verlaine, the son-in-law of his former teacher, Mme. Mauté de Fleurville.



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Geographical origins

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