DEBUSSY LETTERS by Claude Debussy


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The first English edition of the composer's edifying and revealing letters. These selected letters--first published in France in 1980--evince a rare quality of literary style and wit. They should overjoy music lovers with their continual insights into both Debussy's contemporaries and his own works in progress. Debussy was in the forefront of new musical styles, and his letters often show a puzzlement over popular aversions: ""Even though the most discerning part of the public is made up of grocers and chiropodists, I think they've had enough of cavatinas. . .showing off the singer's technique and the hero's pectoral muscles. . ."" Occasionally, despondency shows through: ""Imagine playing blind man's bluff with a group of sylphs and you'll have some idea of what I've been through."" But the composer persisted, despite warnings from the musical Guardians against ""this vague impressionism which is one of the most dangerous enemies of troth in the world of art."" His letters show, too, defiance against the popular taste: "". . .my music is on the abstruse side: audiences must go out to meet it as it has no intention of ever making advances toward them."" Of course, in letters of the great, one looks for fresh observations on contemporary figures. There are many to be found here, but by far the most important historical contribution of these letters is their demonstration of Debussy's support for young musicians (e.g., Falla, Severac, Lacerda, and Varese) despite his long-held reputation of being indifferent. An important entry for our understanding of French music in general and Debussy in particular.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press