Debussy, Claude


Debussy, Claude

Les Chansons de Bilitis for recitation, 2 flutes, 2 harps & celesta

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Claude Debussy – Les Chansons de Bilitis

(b. Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 22 August 1862 – d. Paris, 25 March 1918)

Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was a revolutionary composer who often ignored the musical rules taught to him at the Paris Conser-vatory. Hewas admitted to that school at the age of ten because of his conspicuous talent, but even famous teachers like Ernest Guiraud found him stubborn and hard to deal with. His talent was unquestionable, however. He wanted to write a new and different kind of music for his own age.
His horizons widened when, in 1880, he became the piano tea-cher to the family of Tchaikovsky’s patron Nadezhda von Meck. She took him to Italy, Austria and Russia where he heard music with differing harmonies and structures, all of which were to influence his compositions.
When he was again in Paris, he fell in love with Blanche Vasnier, the wife of a wealthy Paris lawyer. It was the first of many affairs for the sometimes unconventional composer. In 1884, he won the Prix de Rome with his cantata L’enfant prodigue. That same prize had been won by Hector Berlioz in 1830, Charles Gounod in 1839, Georges Bizet in 1857 and Jules Massenet in 1863. It required Debussy to go to Rome and compose there, so from then on, he saw much less of Madame Vasnier. Although he tended to be shy and reserved, he made friends with many famous writers and musicians of his time and was seldom without female companionship. One of these early friends was composer Ernest Chausson.
A major influence on his early compositions was the work of Richard Wagner. After hearing the first act of Tristan und Isolde in concert, he said it was the finest thing he knew. During 1888 and 1889, he traveled to the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, Germany, where he saw Parsifal, Die Meistersinger and the complete performance of Tristan. Many years later, he described Wagner’s music as a sunset mistaken for a dawn, but in the eighteen-eighties he was besotted with the German composer’s additions to the contemporary musical tapestry.
In 1889, Debussy attended the Paris Universal Exposition, the event for which the Eiffel Tower was originally built. It was probab-ly there that he first heard the gongs and chimes of Gamelan music from Java. Violinist Robert Godet wrote that the composer spent many pleasant hours there listening to the Javanese sounds and rhythms.
Wagner’s music and the sounds of the Gamelan were just two of the influences that inspired Debussy in his attempt to bring new life and more vibrant tonal color to western music. He stated that his aim was to free music from the age- old traditions that he felt were stifling it. He felt that much had to be explored and possibly discarded before one reached “the naked flesh of feeling.”
Also in 1889, Debussy began a tempestuous relationship with Gabrielle Dupont, the daughter of a tailor from Lisieux. When the liaison with Dupont was not going well, the composer courted singer, Thérèse Roger, who had performed at a most successful Brussels concert with him a few years earlier. For a while he and Thérèse were engaged, but a series of anonymous letters created a scandal by denouncing the prospective groom’s mounting debts and his affair with Dupont. As a result, he lost his fiancée and his friendship with the rather strait-laced Chausson.
Shortly after that, however, Debussy began an important friendship with the open-minded poet, Pierre Louÿs (1870-1895), who was to write the Chansons de Bilitis. In 1891, Louÿs had helped to found a review called La Conque (The Conch Shell) in which he could print his own poetry along with the works of others. …


Read preface / Vorwort > HERE

Score No.






Piano Reduction

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