Marking the 157th anniversary of Claude Debussy’s birth in 1862
In 1884 a young Claude Debussy won the prestigious composition prize Prix de Rome, which entailed a residence programme at Villa Medici in Rome, where this portrait was painted and is currently exhibited. The stifling environment at the French Academy of Rome was strengthening his resolution to follow his own ways for artistic expression: “I am sure the Institute would not approve, for, naturally it regards the path which it ordains as the only right one. But there is no help for it! I am too enamoured of my freedom, too fond of my own ideas!”
His music is associated in my mind with the paintings of his contemporaries in Paris and the freshness of their brushstrokes. His innovation in music is similar to what the impressionists brought to the world of visual art but he was not comfortable with the description of his music as impressionist. Indeed, as the impressionist painters he found in nature a major source of inspiration for his music and likewise he felt no particular attraction to academic rules about artistic expression.
One of my favourite compositions by Debussy is this piano piece, Claire de lune – Moonlight, the third movement of his Suite bergamasque, he composed around 1890, around the age of 28.