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Introduction To The Composer | Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy was born on August 22nd, 1862 in St. Germain-en-Laye, France.


He grew up in a suburb of Paris where his parents ran a china shop. 


At the age of 10, Debussy entered the Paris Conservatoire to study music. 


Despite his unique improvisational style of playing, Debussy was awarded the Prix de Rome in 1884. This honor awarded him with a three year fellowship to study in Rome. 


Upon completion, Debussy returned home to Paris and was introduced to the music of Richard Wagner. He was inspired by Wagner’s works initially, however became more nationalistic and some would say even anti-German as his career progressed. This was due to the mounting tensions in the pre World War I nations of Europe. 


In addition to Wagner, Debussy was also heavily influenced by Japanese and Spanish music, impressionistic painters Monet, Pissarro, Degas and Cezanne, and his beloved city of Paris, which was a hub of the “bohemian” lifestyle.


It was here where, surrounded by artists and fellow musicians, even laundresses and prostitutes, Debussy composed his Suite bergamasque in 1890 which features the famous piece “Clair de lune”.


Debussy married and had a daughter in 1905, and composed the “Children’s Corner” suite as a gift to her. 


His work is characterized by subtle, shifting harmonies and melodies based on chromatically enriched minor and major modes, as well as whole tone, pentatonic, and irregular modal constructions.  


Claude Debussy passed away on March 25th, 1918 due to colon cancer during a German bombardment in Paris at the age of 55. 

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