Debussy

Debussy

[deb-yoo-see, dey-byoo-, duh-byoo-see; Fr. duh-by-see]
Debussy, Claude Achille, 1862-1918, French composer, exponent of musical impressionism. He studied for 11 years at the Paris Conservatory, receiving its Grand Prix de Rome in 1884 for his cantata L'Enfant Prodigue. After traveling in Europe and Russia, Debussy settled down in Paris in 1887 and devoted himself to composing for the rest of his life. In his music he developed a new fluidity of form and explored unusual harmonic relationships and dissonances. By making use of the whole-tone scale, instead of the traditional scale of Western music, he achieved new nuances of mood and expression, as in his famous tone poem Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, 1894). Inspired by a pastoral poem of Mallarmé, it is one of Debussy's most sensuous and evocative orchestral works, lending itself perfectly to ballet. Other outstanding orchestral pieces are his Nocturnes (1899) and La Mer (The Sea, 1905). His piano works exploit to the utmost the subtle coloristic possibilities of the instrument. Among them are Suite bergamasque (pub. 1905), containing the popular Clair de lune; Estampes (1903); The Children's Corner (1908); 24 preludes, including La Cathédrale engloutie (1910); and 12 études. He also wrote many exquisite songs and an opera, Pelléas et Mélisande (1892-1902), based on the drama by Maeterlinck.

See reminiscences of Marguerite Long (tr. 1972); The Poetic Debussy: A Collection of His Song Texts and Selected Letters (ed. by M. G. Cobb, 1982); biographies by V. I. Seroff (1956) and E. Lockspeiser (2 vol., 1962-65, rev. ed. 1980).

Syrinx is a piece of music for solo flute which Claude Debussy wrote in 1913 (L 129). It is commonly considered to be an indispensable part of any flautist's repertoire. Many musical historians believe that "Syrinx", which gives the performer generous room for interpretation and emotion, played a pivotal role in the development of solo flute music in the early twentieth century. "Syrinx" was originally written by Debussy without barlines or breath marks. The flautist Marcel Moyse later added these, and most publishers publish Moyse's edition.

"Syrinx" was written as incidental music to the uncompleted play Psyché by Gabriel Mourey. It was intended to be performed offstage during the play, and was originally called "Flûte de Pan". Since one of Debussy's Chansons de Bilitis had already been given that title, however, it was given its final name in reference to the myth of the amorous pursuit of the nymph Syrinx by the god Pan.

The piece is dedicated to the flautist Louis Fleury.

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