In this article, we will discuss one of the most influential music composers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born on August 22, 1862, Achille-Claude Debussy started taking piano lessons in Paris when he was 7 years old. Claude gained global fame in early 1902 when he completed the only opera of his life, Pelleas et Melisande.
Our collection of 10 interesting facts about Claude will surely amaze you and the people who are familiar with this charismatic music composer.
Claude Debussy: 10 cool and amazing facts about the modernist music composer
1. Debussy learned elemental music composition from Jean Cerutti
When the Franco-Prussian war broke out, Debussy’s family moved to Cannes at a relative’s house. His aunt paid for his piano lessons, which he started to study with Jean Cerutti, who was an Italian music composer. Debussy’s preliminary learning experience was great, and from there, he became a pupil of Marie Maute de Fleurville, an important fact about Claude Debussy.
2. Debussy was a pupil of Marie Maute de Fleurville
In 1871, Debussy started to study with Marie Maute De Fleurville, who is believed to be a disciple of Chopin. Due to great learning skills, Debussy parents pinned high hopes with their child and wanted him to be a piano maestro. Unfortunately, Claude never achieved above the fourth position in any music competition.
One of Debussy teachers, Emile Durand, wasn’t so much impressed by him, and several times, she reportedly wrote about him that “he could be an excellent music student if he avoids thinking beyond his capacity.” Things didn’t improve with Debussy, and after a year, Emile termed him as “too much careless.”
3. He took admission in Paris Conservatoire
When Debussy turned 10, he was admitted to Conservatoire de Paris, the leading music institute of France. During his 11-year stay at the college, Claude learned piano with some of the mighty piano players, including Cesar Franck and Emile Durand. In spite of getting a chance to learn piano along with some of the piano czars of his time, Claude didn’t pass the piano premier Prix.
It was in July 1874 that Debussy was awarded deuxieme accessit for his remarkable performance as a solo player at the annual college competition.
4. Debussy became a piano instructor
Debussy got a job as a piano instructor at the court of rich and wealthy composer Tchaikovsky, an important fact about Claude Debussy. He was introduced by the patroness, Nadezhda von Meck, to him. He used to teach piano lessons to her children while she and her family were on vacation to Europe during the summers of the 1880s. During this time, Debussy also performed at hotel concerts along with his group fellows. Debussy’s music composition refined over the years, but when Tchaikovsky got a chance to review one of Debussy’s music compositions, the old composer criticized Debussy for his work.
5. Claude made 3 attempts to Prix de Rome competition
He managed to participate in the Prix de Rome competition 3 times. During the first 2 attempts, he lost the competition because the jury didn’t like his compositions. In 1884, he made a third attempt, and he won with his piece L’enfant prodigue. He earned a scholarship for the Villa Medici’s Academie des Beaux-Arts. He wasn’t happy while staying at the academy for 4 years. He was so much distressed that he was unable to compose any charismatic piece.
6. Claude Debussy had love for women
He had a girlfriend named Gaby Dupont, and two of them loved one another. But the relationship broke off, and in 1899, Claude married a woman named Lilly Texier. Lilly was a model, but according to historians, she wasn’t a match of Claude’s skills. Claude was distracted from Lilly and got engaged with a married woman named Emma Bardac. Their relationship became a scandal and Emma, gave birth to a baby girl, who was named as Claude-Emma, a crazy fact about Claude Debussy.
7. He was crazy to become rich
Debussy was highly irresponsible when it came to spending money. As he grew up, the lifestyle of the rich people amazed Claude Debussy a lot and spent his adulthood beyond his means. His family struggled financially while Claude Debussy became an addict to the comforts of life. He purchased a lavish house in a posh locality and hired several domestic servants and got a car. He was pleased with all these comforts and considered it to be his right. Therefore, his obligations continued to surpass his earning.
8. He exchanged his composition for buying coal
During World War I, fuel was not widely available in France. Only rich people were able to buy coal to heat their homes. Claude Debussy was broken at that time, and he offered his coal supplier with a fantastic composition. An interesting fact about Claude Debussy is that the offer was accepted, and the coal supplier went home along with Claude’s last music composition, namely Evenings Lighted by Burning Coals.
9. Debussy as an impressionist music composer
He was amongst the notable music composers who remained affiliated with impressionist music, but he rejected the term for himself. He was fond of being called as a modernist. Irrespective of whatever his music was named, his composition and harmonies helped to shape the composers and musicians who emerged later on.
His work for orchestra, opera, chamber music, and solo piano are all very marvelously composed. Some of his notable works include Prelude to the Afternoon of a faun, Pelleas et Melisande, Claire de lune, Suite bergamasque, and La Mer. There were lots of unfinished and unpublished work by Claude as well.
10. Debussy was diagnosed with cancer
In 1916, a doctor diagnosed Debussy suffering from colorectal cancer. He underwent surgery and got cured by getting his colon removed partially. Unfortunately, he was hit with cancer again and died on March 25, 1918. He was laid to rest in Passy Cemetery.
It isn’t possible to hook Claude Debussy into a single type of music composer. He was an opera composer and player, an orchestra maestro, and a solo composer. He had a great taste for life and music. So, these were the 10 things which you didn’t know about the French impressionist music composer.
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