Debussy, Claude – Clair de Lune
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Who was Claude Debussy?
Claude Debussy is one of the most famous French composers. His music is colorful, vibrant, and full of life. Clair de Lune is one of his many celebrated compositions.
Debussy was born near Paris in 1862. His family was poor. They often moved due to his father’s chronic unemployment. Regardless, his family managed to enroll him in music classes at the age of 7. His talent was noticed and he joined the prestigious Conservatory of Music in Paris.
At the conservatory, he studied harmony, composition, piano, organ, and solfege. Debussy is said to have lacked a strong work ethic. So he was only allowed to continue to study composition, harmony, and solfege. He had talent and was an excellent sight-reader, but was unwilling to practice.
In 1884 Debussy won the most prestigious award offered in France, The Prix de Rome. This allowed him to live in Rome, Italy for years with all expenses paid. The Prix de Rome was expected to inspire and nurture the winning composer. Italy was a center for musical development at the time, especially in opera. Many composers such as Gioachino Rossini and Giuseppe Verdi found fame there.
Unfortunately, Debussy was not fond of Rome and was often depressed. Italian culture and music did not inspire him. He found comfort in the music of Renaissance composers. Orlande Lassus and Giovanni Palestrina were notable favorites. Debussy did find his inspiration once again after seeing pianist Franz Liszt perform. And he returned to Paris soon after in 1887.
In 1890 Debussy began to work on the Suite Bergamasque. Clair de Lune is the 3rd movement of this suite. The title was inspired by a poem with the same name, written by French poet Paul Verlaine. The title is French for “moonlight”. Though the suite is from the early days of Debussy's career, we can still hear the creative genius of this French composer.
Claude Debussy composed many influential works throughout his life outside of Clair de Lune. La Mer, two books of preludes, and his famous String Quartet in G minor are a few examples. His style resonated with contemporaries such as Maurice Ravel, Erik Satie, and Igor Stravinsky.
His music is popular with listeners around the world today. His music is often performed in concerts. And through film, television, and radio, people worldwide recognize Clair de Lune.
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