French composer, whose harmonic innovations helped pave the way for the musical upheavals of the 20th century.
Debussy was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye on August 22, 1862, and educated at the Paris Conservatoire, which he entered at the age of 10. He traveled to Florence, Venice, Vienna, and Moscow in 1879 as private musician to Nadejda von Meck, the patron of Russian composer Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky. While in Russia Debussy became acquainted with the music of such Russian composers as Tchaikovsky, Aleksandr Borodin, Mily Balakirev, and Modest Mussorgsky and with Russian folk and gypsy music. Debussy won the much coveted Grand Prix de Rome in 1884 for his cantata L'enfant prodigue (The Prodigal Son). He then studied in Rome for two years, according to the terms of the award, and submitted new compositions regularly but unsuccessfully to the Grand Prix committee. Among these were the symphonic suite Printemps and a cantata, La demoiselle élue, based on a poem, “The Blessed Damozel,” by the British writer Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
During the 1890s Debussy's works were performed with increasing frequency, and despite their then-controversial nature, he began to gain some recognition as a composer. Outstanding are the String Quartet in G Minor (1893), which some critics regard as his best work; and the famed Prélude ŕ l'aprčs-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, 1894), his first mature orchestral work. The latter was based on a poem by the French symbolist Stéphane Mallarmé.
Debussy's opera Pelléas et Mélisande, based on the play of the same name by the Belgian poet Maurice Maeterlinck, was produced in 1902. It earned Debussy widespread fame as a musician of outstanding significance. The extent to which his score retained and enhanced the abstract, dreamlike quality of Maeterlinck's play was extraordinary, as was his treatment of melody; in his hands, the latter became virtually an extension, or duplication, of the rhythm of natural speech. Regarded by some critics as a perfectly wedded fusion of music and drama, it has had frequent revivals.
From 1902 to 1910 Debussy wrote chiefly for the piano. Among the most important works of this period were Estampes (Engravings, 1903), L'île joyeuse (The Isle of Mirth, 1904), Images (two series, 1905 and 1907), and many preludes.
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Debussy, (Achille) Claude (životopis)
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