Claude Debussy

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Claude Debussy, around 1908
(photo by Nadar )
Music Mile Vienna

Achille-Claude Debussy (born August 22, 1862 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye , † March 25, 1918 in Paris ) was a French composer of impressionism . His music is considered the link between romanticism and modernity.



Birthplace with the museum on the first floor

Claude Debussy was born in 1862 as the first of five children to Manuel-Achille Debussy (1836–1910) and his wife Victorine Joséphine Sophie. Manoury (1836–1915) was born. He wasn't baptized until two years later, which was very late for the time. His godparents were the banker Achille Arosa and Debussy's aunt Octavie de La Ferronière.

Debussy grew up in modest circumstances. His father ran an earthenware and porcelain business in Saint-Germain, which he had to give up a few years after Debussy's birth because it was not profitable. Manuel-Achille Debussy then moved to Paris with his family and worked as an accountant for a railway company.

Claude Debussy never went to school; his mother taught him the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. He was very well read and in 1901 became a music critic for La Revue Blanche , one of the best newspapers on literature and art in France at the time. All of his articles were later collected and published under "Monsieur Croche antidilettante". The German publisher Reclam has published them under the title “Complete Writings and Interviews on Music”. The articles are full of ingenuity.

Music did not play a special role in the Debussy house, but the father liked the operetta and is said to have taken his son with him to some of the performances. As a child, Claude often visited his godparents in Saint-Cloud and Cannes . The experience of the rural environment was a very different experience for him to his normal everyday life. It was his godfather Achille Arosa who made it possible for Debussy to take piano lessons for the first time.

It was by chance that Madame Mauté de Fleurville's attention was drawn to the child, a wealthy woman who claimed to have been a student of Chopin . She offered her parents to take care of Claude's piano training. Within two years she made Debussy a successful candidate for the Paris Conservatory . Just one year after his admission, Debussy attended the senior class with Antoine François Marmontel (1816–1898).

artistic education

The 13 years of studying music that Debussy spent at the Conservatory from the age of 10 or 11 were marked by very different experiences. The 27-year-old Albert Lavignac showed a lot of sympathy for the rebellion of his young pupil, while Marmontel, who had been a lecturer at the conservatory for 30 years, was determined to put a stop to the violent natural talent for music. He led Debussy to some successes: In 1874 he won a 2nd prize in a conservatory competition for the performance of the 2nd piano concerto by Frédéric Chopin , and in the following year he even received 1st prize with Chopin's ballad in F major . With Ludwig van Beethoven , Robert Schumann , Carl Maria von Weber and the Concert Allegro by Chopin, however, he was unexpectedly unsuccessful in the period that followed. “Debussy is developing backwards,” remarked a chronicler of the competitions mockingly.

The failures caused a turning point in Debussy's life: he refrained from becoming a piano virtuoso. He quickly found compensation for this. Although he was celebrated with relish in the class group of the lecturer Émile Durand , who disliked Debussy's numerous violations of the traditional rules of harmony , he was successful in piano accompaniment, which required a certain degree of improvisational talent. You had to have a 1st prize in one of the subjects in order to be accepted into the composition class. Finally, Debussy was accepted into the composition class with 1st prize in piano accompaniment.

Europe trip and further education at the conservatory

In 1880, at the age of 18, Debussy was not yet able to earn his living with music alone. Therefore, he took the opportunity to accompany Nadezhda Filaretowna von Meck (who also supported Peter Tchaikovsky for a lifetime) on her travels through Europe and to give her children piano lessons. Debussy accompanied them through France, Italy and Switzerland. The contact with the Meck family did not break off in the period that followed, which benefited Debussy financially. During his advanced training at the Conservatory, Debussy studied with Ernest Guiraud .

Prix ​​de Rome

In Debussy's time, the Prix ​​de Rome was the highest distinction that could be bestowed on a French composer. In January of each year there was an admission test, if this was passed, the aspirants had to go to a preliminary round in May. A four-part fugue and a choral work based on a binding text were to be submitted , which were to be completed in six days in a retreat. Only a maximum of six participants were admitted to the final round. In this, the task was to set a text that was also given as a two or three-part cantata . The winner of the Prix de Rome - the first prize was not necessarily awarded - received a four-year scholarship to attend the Académie des Beaux-Arts .

At first Debussy was not very enthusiastic about the idea of ​​taking part in this competition. But his participation was very successful: in 1883 he took second place, in 1884 he finally emerged as the winner with the cantata L'Enfant prodigue . Now he was allowed to pursue his musical studies for four years at state expense in the Roman Villa Medici .

Villa Medici

Debussy found his stay in the Villa Medici - which, by the way, he broke off prematurely in 1887 - as painful. He could not or did not want to warm up to his fellow students, complained about his "convict fate":

“I'm trying to work, I can't. […] By the way, you know how much I love music and you can believe me how much I hate my current state. […] You speak of the security guaranteed by the villa; Oh! I would give God knows what to have a little less of it, whatever the price; because it depresses me and prevents me from real life. "

In the spring of 1886 he temporarily withdrew from institutional life and traveled to Paris. There he made acquaintance u. a. with Franz Liszt , Giuseppe Verdi and Ruggero Leoncavallo . The scholarship, however, was not intended to spend the financed time doing nothing. Debussy had to present the results of his composition studies.

His first broadcast from Rome, an ode entitled Zuleima , was received coolly. The academy noted:

“Monsieur Debussy currently seems obsessed with the desire to create something bizarre, incomprehensible, unperformable. Even if some passages have a certain personal character, the vocal part offers nothing of interest, either melodically or declamatory. The academy hopes that time and experience will bring about beneficial changes in the ideas and works of Mr. Debussy. "

The following pieces, which Debussy presented as the result of his studies, were hardly rated better. After all, the academy for the third broadcast, La Damoiselle élue , deigned to ascribe the piece “poetry” and “charm”, which is due to the “indefinite” Character of the subject is justified ”. When in 1889, as every year, a graduation ceremony took place with the graduates of the academy, Debussy refused to attend the ceremony.

Contemporary colleagues

Debussy plays for Ernest Chausson , 1893

Debussy's assessment of Richard Wagner's music changed over time, but basically he liked Wagner's music, especially Tristan and Parsifal . He had studied some of his operas intensively, but said of himself:

“I don't feel tempted to imitate what I admire about Wagner. I have a different idea of ​​the dramatic form: the music begins where the word is unable to express. Music is written for the unspeakable; I would like to make it appear as if it were stepping out of the shadows and returning to it from time to time; I always want to let them appear discreet. "

He and his contemporary Erik Satie had an artistic friendship that was characterized by mutual admiration. Both shared the effort to overcome traditional musical forms. While Satie took the path of musical simplification and banalization and strived for an almost formlessness, Debussy considered an alternative to the classical-romantic tradition to be necessary in both harmonic and formal terms. In search of such alternatives, like a little later Béla Bartók , he dealt intensively with traditional music from non-European cultures. Russian, Javanese and Arabic music , which came to Paris with the World Exhibition in 1889, had a great influence on him .

Debussy also met Maurice Ravel . Their distant friendship was shattered by a calculated provocation from the music critic Pierre Lalo (he accused Ravel of plagiarizing his older colleague). It is astonishing that both often chose the same themes for musical processing. The strangest event in this context happened in 1913: Under the same title Trois Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé , both Ravel and Debussy set three poems by the poet to music, two of which ( Soupir and Placet futile ) were the theme of both works. Since Ravel had obtained permission to set music from the poet's heirs in advance, it looked as if he had the stronger copyright on a musical arrangement of the texts. Debussy complained in a letter to a friend dated August 8, 1913:

“The story with the Mallarmé family and Ravel is anything but funny. And isn't it also strange that Ravel chose the same poems as me? Is this an auto-suggestion phenomenon that would be worth reporting to the medical academy? "

Debussy's work was also published thanks to Ravel, who intervened in writing with the publisher.

Debussy was very fond of Igor Stravinsky , whom he had met around 1901. The two met regularly to exchange ideas about composition and technology.

Bohemian period

The time after his stay at the Villa Medici is commonly referred to as Debussy's bohemian period. It was characterized by an unstable lifestyle in which Debussy struggled with smaller compositions in order to earn a living, without a permanent job and without having won the prestige of his later years. He received additional financial support from a publisher named Georges Hartmann. The composition of an opera called Rodrigue et Chimène , which was never published, also fell during this period , but also a piece that is still used in some piano lessons today: the Bergamasque Suite with the famous Clair de lune .

During his bohemian period, Debussy also worked as a music critic for La Revue blanche . For this purpose he created a character who was a virtual interlocutor for him: “ Monsieur Croche ”, who deliberately introduces himself as “Monsieur Croche antidilettante”. At first impression a grumpy, taciturn guy, who, however, abruptly breaks his silence with a long lecture on contemporary composition and composers, where he regularly runs out of cigars. Numerous writings on such "conversations" have survived to this day.

Private life

Around 1888/89 Debussy had an affair with Camille Claudel , but it ended in 1891.

For years Debussy had a relationship with Gabrielle Dupont, a young girl whom he is said to have met in a "frivolous place". Gaby “with the green eyes” took care of Debussy's household and kept the worst everyday problems away from him. However, when Gaby found a letter in 1897 from which she had to deduce Debussy's secret romance with another woman, a heated argument broke out in the course of which Gaby turned a gun on himself and had to be treated in hospital, seriously injured.

The romantic love affair that had sparked the domestic drama revolved around a female seamstress and mannequin named Rosalie Texier, also known as Lily, a very pretty girl with luscious blonde hair. Debussy married her on October 18, 1899, but it was also not intended to last.

In 1901 Debussy met the banker's wife Emma Bardac. A secret love affair soon became public, prompted his wife to attempt suicide (also with a revolver) and caused a public scandal - Debussy had become a celebrity who could not be admitted to such “astray”. He then broke up with almost all of his friends and filed for divorce.

On October 30, 1905, Emma-Claude, called Chouchou , was the daughter of Debussy and Bardac. He dedicated the Children's Corner to her . The birth was not legitimized by marriage until 1908, the divorce proceedings had delayed the marriage for years. Emma-Claude died of diphtheria in July 1919 at the age of fourteen .


Debussy's grave ( Cimetière de Passy )

On May 13, 1909, Debussy was diagnosed with cancer ( colon cancer ). In 1915 it was so advanced that he decided to have an operation in December, which brought no improvement and only prolonged his suffering. Invalidity made his creative power paralyze. On March 25, 1918, he died of his illness. He was buried on the Cimetière de Passy in Paris (Division 14, approximate location: 48 ° 51 ′ 45.4 ″  N , 2 ° 17 ′ 2.1 ″  E ).

A Claude Debussy Museum was set up in the house where he was born at 38 rue au Pain in Saint-Germain-en-Laye . Debussy is also the namesake of the asteroid (4492) Debussy and the Debussy Heights mountain range on Alexander I Island in Antarctica.

Working as a composer

Development of your own tonal language

Hokusai : The great wave . The encounter with Asian art was very important for Debussy; he chose this woodcut as the cover picture for an edition of La Mer

At the World Exhibition in Paris in 1889 , Claude Debussy was fascinated by the sound of a Javanese gamelan ensemble. The encounter with the pentatonic tuning used in the orchestra had a decisive influence on his further compositional development. He adapted this “strange” music and its floating sound ideal in his compositional style without copying it directly. Debussy's most obvious endeavor to adapt Southeast Asian music to an occidental instrument with an equal tuning is shown in the piano piece Pagodes , the first movement of his piano cycle Estampes . He began to forego a purposeful resolution of harmonic tensions by developing an independent harmony over time instead of the classical-romantic functional harmony with clear tonal references and emphases ( major-minor tonality ), which European influences with Debussy's discovery more traditional Slavic and Asian music combined, for example through the use of pentatonic and the whole-tone scale . Because the resulting sound images were perceived as strange, floating and spherical and were accordingly associated with the equally perceived images of Claude Monet and Paul Gauguin, for example , Debussy is considered to be the main exponent of Impressionism in music history . Debussy's position is exemplified in a letter to Pierre Louÿs dated January 22, 1895:

“My good old friend! Remember the Javanese music, which contained all the nuances, even those that cannot be named, in which the tonic and the dominant are nothing more than useless fantasies for use by wine children who are incomprehensible. "

Debussy also experienced significant influences from the Russian romantic composers, in particular from Modest Mussorgsky , whose opera Boris Godunow he studied intensively and from whose analysis he derived an alternative to Wagner's arioso singing, the prosody , a kind of spoken chant. Debussy used this type of text articulation in his opera Pelléas et Mélisande . Other important composers with whom Debussy dealt on the way to an independent musical expression were Alexander Borodin and Nikolai Rimski-Korsakow .

While Debussy himself preferred this described, floating and opaque tonal language in his earlier creative period until the completion of the score of the opera Pelléas et Mélisande , he developed one in his later work (for example in Jeux , the Études and the opera torso La Chute de la maison Usher ) clearly clearer style tending towards tonal simplicity with enormous structural complexity at the same time. Debussy's great interest in French baroque music and its main representatives, Jean-Philippe Rameau , Jean-Baptiste Lully and François Couperin , and in particular his preoccupation with Rameau's writings on music theory, led Debussy to develop an im Compared to his main works, he tried to simplify and clear harmonics until around 1910.

In addition to the use of pentatonic scales (e.g. in Préludes I, Les Collines d'Anacapri ) and whole-tone scales (e.g. in Préludes I, Voiles ) Debussy uses borrowed from the salon music of his time ( e.g. Préludes I, Minstrels ) and early jazz music Harmonics (as in Children's Corner and Le petit nègre ). Like Ravel, Debussy loved the coloring of Spanish dance music. He erected a monument to her, for example, in Iberia , the middle movement of the orchestral work Images , which appears absolutely authentic due to its extremely skilful orchestration and typical rhythm, but does not contain any quotations from Spanish folk music and is entirely a self-composed composition.

The use of non-major-minor-based harmonics, non-European scales and Spanish-like colorations as well as rhythms is never an end in itself for the sake of the mere effect. Out of a misunderstanding, Debussy was classified as a pure mood composer, similar to how Monet was called a mood painter. In fact, the structures of his works often follow just as strict rules as a fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach .

For example, the whole-tone scale in the already mentioned piano work Voiles from Préludes I is not present as material from the start, but is only achieved through the systematic interval break of the octave that runs through the first half of the piece . While major thirds, i.e. thirds of octaves, dominate the sound in the introductory motif, excessive fourths or tritoni , i.e. octave halves, and finally major seconds as sixth octaves are added. The formal part of the movement is completed when the octave itself is introduced for the first time. In the second part, Debussy briefly changes to the pentatonic scale, in order to let the piece end in a third section in the whole-tone scale and finally with a major, fading third. If you consistently pursue the system of even refraction of certain intervals, you will inevitably end up with micro- intervals as used in spectral music. The rhythmic structure of voiles is also extremely complex. Symmetrical patterns and the play with additive rhythms can be demonstrated throughout the piece, as they were used 40–50 years later by Olivier Messiaen . The subtitle Voiles (“veil”) can not only be interpreted as an exotic allusion to an Asian veil, but also indicates that Debussy had in mind the refractions and shadows cast by a veil and wanted to reflect them both formally and structurally.

Voiles is just one example of Debussy's pioneering preoccupation with harmonic possibilities beyond classical occidental music, for his testing of additive rhythm instead of the accent graduation usual in classical and romantic periods, and for the deep compositional penetration of an inspiration.

Major works

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune

The breakthrough came with the Debussy of a poem by Stéphane Mallarmé inspired Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (to German: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun ), which premiered in Paris on 22 December 1894th Despite a length of only about ten minutes, the piece must be described as Debussy's first major major work, because it is the first time that all aspects of an independent musical language are manifested. The skillful and chamber music instrumentation as well as the bold harmony are combined with an advanced architecture of the proportions of the piece. These features also appeared in later works and led many composers of the 20th century to see Debussy's music as an essential starting point for new music .

The contemporary reception of the Prelude , however, was ambivalent: During rehearsals, the orchestral musicians were frustrated that Debussy kept making changes to the orchestration, but they did their best at the premiere, and the response from the audience was benevolent. The criticism from the professional world was not unanimous, however, while Paul Dukas expressed his praise, there were also warnings who advised Debussy that he should return to greater simplicity. So judged z. B. Camille Saint-Saëns :

“The prelude sounds nice, but you won't find the slightest musical idea in it. It is as much a piece of music as a painter's palette is painting. Debussy did not create a style: he cultivated the lack of style, logic [...]. "

In 1912 the prelude served as a musical accompaniment to Vaslav Nijinsky's ballet L'Après-midi d'un faune , which is also regarded as an artistic milestone, in this case dance, even if the revealing choreography of the ballet premiere caused a scandal among conservative Parisian audiences let.

Les Nocturnes

The premiere of Les Nocturnes , an orchestral work that Debussy had been planning since 1892, took place on November 9, 1900. Debussy wrote in a foreword:

“The title Nocturnes should be understood here in a general and, above all, in a more decorative sense. So it is not about the usual form of the nocturno, but about all impressions and special illuminations that can be contained in this word. "

The work aroused the enthusiasm of the audience and brought it little money, but great recognition by the music critics.

Pelléas and Mélisande

Debussy's opera Pelléas et Mélisande was performed in 1902. It was preceded by a long and sometimes torturous creative period. Debussy had already started work on it in 1893, but discarded a lot and found himself temporarily unable to continue working productively on it. Everything had started so well: Authorized personally by the poet Maurice Maeterlinck , there was warm agreement on the planned processing of the text into an opera. When it came time to draw up the cast list for the premiere, however, a nerve-wracking argument broke out: Maeterlinck, who had been in a relationship with the prima donna Georgette Leblanc for years, naturally wanted her to play the role of Mélisande. Debussy, in turn, had agreed to the decision to have Mélisande performed by the singer Mary Garden at the suggestion of the conductor André Messager . In a campaign against Debussy conducted publicly through the newspaper Le Figaro , Maeterlinck claimed that Debussy had falsified large parts of the text without his consent and that he, Maeterlinck, did not allow it to be performed.

During the rehearsals for Pelléas et Mélisande , it also turned out that some transitions were not long enough for the necessary change of decoration, so that Debussy had to rework them accordingly. On April 27th, the dress rehearsal took place as part of a matinée in front of an audience that consisted to a large extent of incited Maeterlinck supporters. The new harmonies and rhythms of the work as well as the special articulation of the texts ( prosody ) met with incomprehension. Boos and whistles rang out at the slightest occasion. Mélisande sang on stage: “I'm not happy” - “Neither are we!”, It echoed scornfully from the audience.

From the second act onwards, the orchestra hardly made it against the audience; in the fourth act, a tumult finally broke out. The fact that the opera was not interrupted was thanks to the discipline of the conductor and the musicians, who bravely held out to the end. The premiere two days later was much quieter, the opera received positive reviews and was even on the program for several months when the house was sold out.

Recordings for Welte-Mignon

In 1912 Debussy recorded six of his own compositions on piano rolls for the Freiburg company M. Welte & Söhne , manufacturer of the Welte-Mignon reproduction piano :

  • Children's Corner Suite
  • D'un cahier d'esquisses
  • Estampes, No. 2 La Soirée dans Grenade
  • La plus que lente, Valse
  • Preludes I, No. 1 Danseuses de Delphes; No. 10 La Cathédrale engloutie; No. 11 La Danse de Puck
  • Preludes I, No. 3 Le Vent dans la plaine, No. 12 minstrels


Portrait of Debussy on a 20 franc banknote

Stage works

  • Diane au bois , stage work (Banville 1884)
  • Rodrigue et Chimène , unfinished opera in three acts based on a text by Catulle Mendès (1890–92)
  • Pelléas et Mélisande , lyrical drama in five acts and twelve images with orchestra based on a text by Maurice Maeterlinck (1893–1902)
  • FEA (Frères en Art) , 3 scenes from a game (1900)
  • Le Diable dans le beffroi , sketch ( Poe -Debussy)
  • La Chute de la maison Usher , opera fragment, planned as an opera in one act based on the work by Edgar Allan Poe (1908–1916)
  • Masques et Bergamasques , scenario for ballet (1910)
  • Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien , incidental music for a mystery in five acts with text by Gabriele D'Annunzio (1911)
  • Khamma , ballet music, legend in three scenes (1911–12)
  • Jeux , ballet music, poem in one act (1912)
  • La Boîte à joujoux , ballet for children (1913)

Choral works

Orchestral works

  • Première Suite d'Orchestre (1882–84; WP 2012); also received as a version for piano duo
Fête - Ballet - Rêve (orch.Philippe Manoury ) - Cortège et Bacchanale
  • Printemps (1887)
Très modéré - Modéré
  • Le Roi Lear , incidental music (1897–99)
Fanfare - Sommeil de Lear
  • Fantaisie pour piano et orchester (1889–90)
Andante - Allegro - Lento e molto espressivo - Allegro molto
Nuages ​​- Fêtes - Sirènes (with female choir)
De l'aube à midi sur la mer - Jeux de vagues - Dialogue du vent et de la mer
  • Images pour orchester (1905-12)
Modéré (Gigues) - Ibéria: Par les rues et par les chemins, Les Parfums de la nuit, Le Matin d'un jour de fête - Rondes de printemps: Modérément animé

Works for solo instruments and orchestra

Danse sacrée - Danse profane
  • Première Rhapsodie pour clarinette et orchester (1909-10)

Chamber music

  • Premier Trio en sol majeur for violin, violoncello and piano (1880)
Andantino con moto allegro - Scherzo - Intermezzo: Moderato con allegro - Andante espressivo - Finale: Appassionato
Animé et très décidé - Assez vif et bien rythmé - Andantino modérément expressif - Très modéré - Très animé
  • Rhapsody pour saxophone et piano (1903/05)
  • Première Rhapsodie pour clarinette et piano (1909/10)
  • Petite Pièce pour clarinette et piano (1910)
Allegro - Très vif - Lent - Vif, avec entrain
Prologue: Lent - Sérénade: Modérément animé, vivace - Finale: Animé, lento, vivace
  • Sonate pour flûte, alto et harpe (1916)
Pastoral - Interlude - Finale
  • Sonata pour violon et piano (1916/17)
Allegro vivo - Intermède: Fantasque et léger - Finale: Très animé

Piano music

Piano for two hands
Andantino con moto - Allegretto scherzando
  • Ballad (1890)
  • Danse (Tarentelle styrienne) (1890)
  • Nocturne (1890)
  • Rêverie (1890)
  • Valse romantique (1890)
  • Bergamasque Suite (1890)
Prelude - Menuet - Clair de lune - Passepied
  • Mazurka (1891)
  • Images (1894)
Lent - Sarabande - Très vite
Prelude - Sarabande - Toccata
  • Estampes (1903)
Pagodes - La Soirée dans Grenade - Jardins sous la pluie
Reflets dans l'eau - Homage to Rameau - Mouvement
Cloches à travers les feuilles - Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut - Poissons d'or
Doctor gradus ad parnassum - Jimbo's lullaby - Serenade for the doll - The snow is dancing - The little shepherd - Golliwogg's Cakewalk
Danseuses de Delphes - Voiles - Le Vent dans la plaine - Les Sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir - Les Collines d'Anacapri - Des pas sur la neige - Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest - La Fille aux cheveux de lin - La Sérénade interrompue - La Cathédrale engloutie - La Danse de Puck - Minstrels
Brouillards - Feuilles mortes - La Puerta del vino - Les Fées sont d'exquises danseuses - Bruyères - General Lavine: Eccentric - Ondine - La Terrasse des audiences du clair de lune - Canope - Hommage à Samuel Pickwick - Les Tierces alternées - Feux d ' artifice
  • Berceuse héroïque (1914, for orchestra 1915)
  • Études - Livre I (1915)
Pour les cinq doigts - Pour les tierces - Pour les quartes - Pour les sixtes - Pour les octaves - Pour les huit doigts
  • Études - Livre II (1915)
Pour les degrés chromatiques - Pour les agréments - Pour les notes répétées - Pour les sonorités opposées - Pour les arpèges composés - Pour les accords
  • Les soirs illuminés par l'ardeur du charbon (February or March 1917)
Piano for four hands
  • Symphonie en si mineur , one movement (piano reduction) (1880)
  • Triomphe de Bacchus , Interludes (1883)
  • Petite suite (1888-89)
En bateau - Cortège - Menuet - Ballet
  • Marche écossaise sur un thème popular (1891)
  • Six Epigraphes antiques (1914-15)
Pour invoquer Pan, dieu du vent d'été - Pour un tombeau sans nom - Pour que la nuit soit propice - Pour la danseuse aux crotales - Pour l'Égyptienne - Pour remercier la pluie au matin
Two pianos
  • Lindaraja (1901)
  • En blanc et noir (1915)
Avec emportement - Lent, sombre - Scherzando

Songs and singing

  • Nuit d'étoiles ( Banville 1876)
  • Beau soir ( Bourget 1878)
  • Fleur des blés (Giraud 1878)
  • La Belle au bois dormant (Hyspa 1880/83)
  • Mandolin ( Verlaine 1880/83)
  • Paysage sentimental (Bourget 1880/83)
  • Voici que le printemps (Bourget 1880/83)
  • Zephyr (Banville 1881)
  • Rondeau ( Musset 1882)
  • Quatre Mélodies pour Mme Vasnier (1882/84)
Apparition (Mallarmé) - Clair de lune (Verlaine) - Pantomime (Verlaine) - Pierrot (Banville)
  • Cinq Poèmes de Baudelaire (1887/89)
Le Balcon - Harmonie du soir - Le Jet d'eau - Recueillement - La Mort des amants
  • Ariettes oubliées (Verlaine 1888)
C'est l'extase - Il pleure dans mon cœur - L'ombre des arbres dans la rivière (1880) - Chevaux de bois - Green - Whimsy
  • Dans le jardin (Gravollet 1891)
  • Les Angélus (Le Roy 1891)
  • Deux Romances (Bourget 1891)
Romance - Les Cloches
  • Trois Mélodies (Verlaine 1891)
La Mer est plus belle - Le Son du cor s'afflige - L'échelonnement des haies
  • Fêtes galantes I (Verlaine 1892)
En sourdine - Fantoches - Clair de lune
  • Proses lyriques (Debussy 1892/93)
De rêve - De grève - De fleurs - De soir
  • Chansons de Bilitis (Louys 1897)
La Flûte de Pan - La Chevelure - Le Tombeau des Naïades
  • Fêtes galantes II (Verlaine 1904)
Les Ingénus - Le Faune - Colloque sentimental
  • Trois Chansons de France (1904)
Rondel: Le temps a laissé son manteau ( Charles d'Orléans ) - La Grotte ( Tristan L'Hermite ) - Rondel: Pour ce que plaisance est morte (Charles d'Orléans)
  • Le Promenoir des deux amants (Tristan L'Hermitte 1904/10)
Auprès de cette grotte sombre - Crois mon conseil, chère Climène - Je tremble en voyant ton visage
Ballade de Villon il s'amye - Ballad que fait Villon à la requeste de sa mère pour prier Nostre Dame - Ballad des femmes de Paris
Soupir - Placet futile - Éventail
  • Noël des enfants qui n'ont plus de maison (Debussy 1915)

Works overview in tabular form

Year of origin title instrumentation Sentence names / titles
Piano works
1882-1884 Première Suite d'Orchestre 2 pianos I. Fête - II. Ballet - III. Rêve - IV. Cortège et Bacchanale
1888-1889 Petite suite Piano four hands I. En bateau - II. Cortège - III. Menuet - IV. Ballet
1888-1891 Deux arabesques Piano solo I. Andantino con moto - II. Allegretto scherzando
1890 Tarentelle styrienne Piano solo Allegretto
1890 Bergamasque suite Piano solo I. Prelude - II. Menuet - III. Clair de lune - IV. Passepied
1891 Marche écossaise Piano four hands Sur un thème popular
1894 Images (1894) Piano solo I. Lent - II. Sarabande - III. Très vite
1901 Lindaraja Two pianos Modéré mais sans lenteur et dans un rythme très souple
1901-02 Pour le piano Piano solo I. Prelude - II. Sarabande - III. Toccata
1903 Estampes Piano solo I. Pagodes - II. La soirée dans Grenade - III. Jardins sous la pluie
1903 D'un cahier d'esquisses Piano solo Très lent, sans rigueur
1904 Masques Piano solo Très vif et fantasque
1904 L'Isle Joyeuse Piano solo Quasi una cadenza
1904 Images - Livre I Piano solo I. Reflets dans l'eau - II. Homage to Rameau - III. Mouvement
1906-1908 Children's Corner Piano solo I. Doctor gradus ad parnassum - II. Jimbo's lullaby - III. Serenade for the doll
IV. The snow is dancing - V. The little shepherd - VI. Golliwogg's cake walk
1907 Images - Livre II Piano solo I. Cloches à travers les feuilles - II. Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut - III. Poissons d'or
1909-1910 Preludes - Livre I. Piano solo I. Danseuses de Delphes - II. Voiles - III. Le vent dans la plaine - IV. Les sons et les parfums
tournent dans l'air du soir - V. Les Collines d'Anacapri - VI. Des pas sur la neige - VII. Ce qu'a vu
le vent d'ouest - VIII. La Fille aux cheveux de lin - IX. La Sérénade interrompue - X. La Cathédrale
engloutie - XI. La Danse de Puck - XII. Minstrels
1910-1912 Preludes - Livre II Piano solo I. Brouillards - II. Feuilles mortes - III. La Puerta del vino - IV. Les Fées sont d'exquises danseuses
V. Bruyères - VI. General Lavine Eccentric - VII. Ondine - VIII. La Terrasse des audiences du clair
de lune - IX. Canope - X. Homage to Samuel Pickwick - XI. Les Tierces alternées - XII. Feux d'artifice
1914-1915 Six Epigraphes antiques Two pianos I. Pour invoquer Pan, dieu du vent d'été - II. Pour un tombeau sans nom - III. Pour que la nuit soit
propice - IV. Pour la danseuse aux crotales - V. Pour l'Égyptienne - VI. Pour remercier la pluie au matin
1915 En blanc et noir Two pianos I. Avec emportement - II. Lent. Sombre - III. Scherzando
1915 Études - Livre I. Piano solo I. Pour les cinq doigts - II. Pour les tierces - III. Pour les quartes - IV. Pour les sixtes - V. Pour les octaves - VI. Pour les huit doigts
1915 Études - Livre II Piano solo I. Pour les degrés chromatiques - II. Pour les agréments - III. Pour les notes répétées - IV. Pour les sonorités opposées - V. Pour les arpèges composés - VI. Pour les accords
Orchestral works
1882-1884 Première Suite d'Orchestre orchestra I. Fête - II. Ballet - III. Rêve (orch. Manoury ) - IV. Cortege et Bacchanale
1887 Printemps orchestra I. Très modéré - II. Modéré
1889-1890 Fantasy for piano and orchestra Piano and orchestra I. Andante. Allegro - II. Lento e molto espressivo - III. Allegro molto
1892-1894 Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune orchestra Très modéré
1897-1899 Nocturnes Orchestra and women's choirs I. Nuages ​​- II. Fêtes - III. Sirènes
1901-1911 rhapsody Saxophone and orchestra Très modéré
1903-1905 La Mer orchestra I. De l'aube à midi sur la mer - II. Jeux de vagues - III. Dialogue du vent et de la mer
1904 Danses Harp and string orchestra I. Danse sacrée - II. Danse profane
1905-1912 Images pour orchester orchestra I. Gigues: modéré
II. Ibéria: 1. Par les rues et par les chemins 2. Les Parfums de la nuit 3. Le Matin d'un jour de fête
III. Rondes de printemps: Modérément animé
1909-1910 Première Rhapsody Clarinet and orchestra Rêveusement lent
Chamber music
1880 Premier Trio in G major Violin, violoncello and piano I. Andantino con moto allegro - II. (Scherzo) Intermezzo: Moderato con allegro - III. Andante espressivo - IV. Finale: Appassionato
1882 Nocturne et scherzo Violoncello and piano I. Nocturne - II. Scherzo
1893 String quartet in G minor two violins, viola and violoncello I. Animé et très décidé - II. Assez vif et bien rythmé - III. Andantino modérément expressif
IV. Très modéré - très animé
1909-1910 Première Rhapsody Clarinet and piano Rêveusement lent
1910 Petite pie Clarinet and piano I. Allegro - II. Très vif - III. Lent - IV. Vif, avec entrain
1913 Syrinx flute Très modéré
1915 Sonata for violoncello and piano Violoncello and piano I. Prologue. Lent - II. Sérénade. Modérément animé - vivace - III. Final. Animé - lento - vivace
1915 Sonata for flute, viola and harp Flute, viola and harp I. Pastorale - II. Interlude - III. final
1916-1917 Sonata for violin and piano Violin and piano I. Allegro vivo - II. Intermède. Fantasque et léger - III. Final. Très animé
1884 Apparition (Mallarmé) Singing and piano
1887-1889 Cinq poèmes de Baudelaire Singing and piano Le Balcon; Harmony you soir; Le Jet d'eau; Recruitment; La mort des amants
1888 (1903) Ariettes oubliées (Verlaine) Singing and piano C'est l'extase langoureuse; Il pleure dans mon coeur; L'Ombre des arbres; Chevaux de bois; Green; Whimsy;
1891 Les Angélus (Le Roy) Singing and piano
1891 Dans le jardin (Gravollet) Singing and piano
1891? Trois mélodies (Verlaine) Singing and piano La Mer est plus belle; Le Son du cor s'afflige; L'Échelonnement des haies;
1892 Fêtes galantes I (Verlaine) Singing and piano En sourdine; Clair de lune; Fantoches;
1892-1893 Proses lyriques (Debussy) Singing and piano De rêve; De grêve; De fleurs; De soir;
1897 Chansons de Bilitis (Louys) Singing and piano La Flûte de Pan; La Chevelure; Le Tombeau des Naïades;
1904 Fêtes galantes II (Verlaine) Singing and piano Les Ingénus; Le Faune; Colloque sentimental;
1904 Trois chansons de France (Charles d'Orléans, Tristan L'Hermite) Singing and piano Le Temps a laissé son manteau; La Grotte; Pour ce que plaisance est morte;
1910 Trois Ballades de François Villon Singing and piano Ballad de Villon à s'amye; Ballad that Villon feit à la requeste de sa mère pour prier Nostre Dame; Ballad des femmes de Paris;
1913 Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmeé Singing and piano Soupir; Placet futile; Éventail;
1915 Noël des enfants qui n'ont plus de maison (Debussy) Singing and piano
Choral music
1898-1908 Trois chansons (Charles d'Orléans) A cappella choir Dieu! qu'il la fait bon regarder - Quand j'ai ouy le tambourin sonner - Yver, vous n'estes qu'un villain
Ballet music
1911-1912 Khamma orchestra Legend in three scenes
1912 Jeux orchestra Poem in one act
1913 La Boîte à joujoux orchestra Ballet for children
1890-1892 Rodrigue et Chimène unfinished opera in three acts based on a text by Catulle Mendès
1893-1902 Pelléas and Mélisande lyrical drama in five acts and twelve images with orchestra based on a text by Maurice Maeterlinck
1908-1916 La Chute de la maison Usher An opera fragment planned as an opera in one act based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe
1911 Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien Incidental music for a mystery in five acts with text by Gabriele D'Annunzio

A numbering of the works was u. a. made by François Lesure . The works receive a work number with a prefixed L.

Audio samples


By Claude Debussy

About Claude Debussy


Web links

Commons : Claude Debussy  - album with pictures, videos and audio files


  • Debussy. Piano Society - Free Recordings
  • Debussy. Classic Cat - Directory with free recordings



Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b François Lesure: Claude Debussy. Fayard, 2003, ISBN 2-213-61619-1 . (French)
  2. Claude Debussy. Biography. 1915-1918. Center de documentation Claude Debussy, November 17, 2017, archived from the original ; accessed on April 8, 2020 .
  3. ^ Claude Debussy: Lettres 1884–1915 . Hermann, Paris 1980, p. 70.
  4. ^ Oswald Beaujean: Claude Debussy. Première Suite d'Orchestre, La Mer. ( Memento from March 1, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) In: BR-Klassik , Leporello , May 2, 2013.
  5. Bruce Reader: A world première of a lost early work by Debussy in period instrument performances from Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth released by Musicales Actes Sud. In: , April 27, 2013.