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More about Claude Debussy
Born in the Summer of 1862, Claude Debussy was the eldest of five children. In 1870, at the age of 7, Debussy was taken to Cannes where he lived with his Aunt until 1871. It was here that he began to take piano lessons with Jean Cerutti and his talents became quickly apparent. At the age of 10, Debussy started studying at the Conservatoire de Paris and remained there for 11 years, focusing at first on piano performance. Though Debussy was an exceptional pianist, his commitment to his studies was questionable. However, through his role as an accompanist for vocal classes at the conservatoire, he met singer, Marie Vasnier and was inspired to composer for her, eventually composing 27 songs for her over the course of 17 years.
Despite the disapproval of his composition teacher, Debussy refused to follow the apparent “rules” of composition and continued to do so for the rest of his career. Debussy’s social standing fluctuated as his private life often overshadowed his career and the public responses to his work were often muted. However, in 1902, his opera, “Pelléas et Mélisande” finally provided him with international success, paving the way for later success with perhaps one of his most well known orchestral works, “La mer” in 1905. It was only during the last few years of Debussy’s life that performances began to take place more regularly both in France and abroad, with Gustav Mahler conducting a performance of “Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune” in New York in 1910.
Debussy would surely have continued to explore and discover new 20th century compositional techniques, in the same way that Stravinsky and Béla Bartók would later do, had his life not been cut short by cancer in 1918, aged 55.
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