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Claude Debussy (August 22, 1862 – March 25, 1918)

Born to a poor family in 1862 it was his talent at the piano that gained him entrance into the Paris Conservatory at the age of 11.  While the piano took him to Paris it was his interest in composition that made him one of the most innovative composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Seen as the founder of musical impressionism, he influenced Bartok, Messiaen, George Benjamin and even the great jazz pianist, Bill Evans.

Most recognized we suppose for “Claire de lune”, which was one of four parts in his “Suite Bergamasque”, his orchestral work, “Afternoon of a Faun (Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune)”, based on Stephane Mallarme’s poem, remains popular as it is often heard now as the score for the world’s great ballet companies and dancers.  Mallarme’s poetry, along with other literary artists and painters of that period, played a significant role in the development and popularity of the Symbolist Movement in the latter part of the 19th century.  This movement informed much of Debussy’s work, and can be heard in his “symphonic sketches”, “La Mer” (1903-1905).  In his final years he focused on chamber music, including the String Quartet in G minor Op. 10, played recently at the Carolina Music Museum by the Tesla Quartet as part of the Swannanoa Chamber Music Festival.

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