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A preview of our collection of performances featuring the works of French composer Claude Debussy, widely considered to have fathered impressionistic music.

About Debussy

Known for his innovative and evocative style, Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918) practically coined the title of Impressionist composer - although he vehemently rejected it. Among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Debussy's use of free harmony and structure made him one of the best to ever evoke atmosphere and imagery through music.

Debussy was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, the son of a small business owner and seamstress, and displayed a keen sense for music from an early age. His parents enrolled him at the Paris Conservatoire at the tender age of ten, where he started rebelling against conventional approaches to music, even as a child; but, despite his rebellious streak, Debussy was an excellent student. His student years in Paris proved to shape his distinct music style.

Despite being granted the chance to continue his studies at the Villa Medici in Rome, the young Debussy was far too discontented with the confines of academia. So, instead, he moved back to Paris, where he drew from the city's bustling cultural life, the visual arts, and non-Western music to compose his breakthrough work, 'Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune', in 1894. This piece marked Debussy's first venture into innovative harmony and texture usage.

The next decades of Debussy's career were marked by the debut of some of his most enduring works; with the opera 'Pelléas et Mélisande' he displayed his approach to musical storytelling and orchestration, and orchestral masterpiece 'La Mer' and piano suite 'Suite bergamasque' cemented his reputation as a true painter of sound, with an unmatched ability to use harmony, tone color, and structure like no other before him. His trailblazing status made him a celebrity among his peers, as he became a central figure in the transition from Romanticism to modernism in music.

The First World War wrecked havok in Debussy's life, not made easier by ammounting health struggles. Still, he continued to compose, most significantly 'Études'. His later works reflect the color drained from his life, too; they are less lush, more economical, and curt. Debussy passed away at the age of 55 in the final years of the war, leaving behind an unfathomably rich legacy that would reshape the trajectory of music in the ensuing century.

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