Claude Debussy

August 22, 1862 - March 25, 1918

Claude Debussy Artistfacts

  • The French composer Claude Debussy was born in the northwestern suburbs of Paris. The oldest of five children, his father was a china shop salesman.
  • Although his sizable family was short on cash, Debussy landed a spot at the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 10. where he studied piano under Antoine Francois Marmontel. Within three years he was playing Chopin piano concertos.
  • Debussy's 1879 Conservatoire report described him as: "A pupil with a considerable gift for harmony but desperately careless."
  • Debussy's private life was often turbulent, and his cavalier behavior with women was widely condemned. As a teenager he began an eight-year affair with Blanche Vasnier, wife of a Parisian lawyer. The relationship eventually faltered and he racked up a series of marriages, divorces and affairs, which yielded only one surviving child, Claude-Emma.
  • Although Debussy's personal turmoil proved amusement for Paris society, his works were praised, starting with "L'enfant Prodigue" (The Prodigal Son), which won the much-coveted Grand Prix de Rome prize.
  • Debussy was a slow composer, it would often take him weeks to choose one chord in preference to another.
  • Debussy died of colon cancer at his home in Paris in 1918 at the age of 55.

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