Achille Claude Debussy: The Man Behind ‘Claire De Lune’

Achille Claude Debussy is a famed musician and composer who contributed many brilliant pieces of music. Debussy is most famous for his Romantic era composition called ‘Claire de Lune’. ‘Claire de Lune’ is a hauntingly beautiful piece of music, and only one example from Debussy’s catalog. But what about the man behind the music? Read on for a look at Achille Claude Debussy’s life and achievements.

The Early Years

Achille Claude Debussy was born on August 22, 1862 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France to parents of humble means. As the son of a shopkeeper and a seamstress, doors did not readily open for Debussy as easily as they would for other composers of his caliber. As a young man, he showed much promise with his musical abilities. It seemed as if Debussy would follow in his parents footsteps until he caught the attention of a wealthy wife of a millionaire, Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck. Many opportunities presented for Debussy as a result of von Meck’s interest in Debussy’s talent.

An Erratic Personal Life

Debussy’s personal life was reported to be tumultuous at times. Debussy had many women in his life, and their relationships usually didn’t end too nicely. Historians also report that he often had suicidal thoughts. Debussy was married for a short time to Lily Texier. Texier reportedly attempted to kill herself, but failed. Debussy left Texier for his mistress, Emma Bardac with whom Debussy had a child with. Debussy’s only child, Claude-Emma, was born in 1905.

A Fruitful Career

Debussy began composing music in 1880 and by the year 1884 he had secured the highly sought after ‘Prix de Rome’ award. As a result Debussy was awarded with a four year scholarship to the Villa Medici, a French school based in Rome. It is reported that Debussy loathed his time at Villa Medici, with complaints of bad food, crowding and uncomfortable living conditions, just to name a few. In 1890, Debussy was exposed to the music of George Wagner and it greatly inspired him. The Wagner influence can be detected in some of Debussy’s works including ‘Deux Arabesque’, ‘Suite bergamasque’ and ‘Claire de Lune’.

Over time Debussy’s style matured and grew more intense. Debussy’s later works exuded passion, power and intrigue. Good examples of Debussy’s work that reflect this include ‘La mer’, ‘Pelleas et Mellisande’ and ‘Pour le piano’. Debussy’s music seemlessly bridged the gap between the Romantic era and modern music.

The End of an Era

Achille Claude Debussy succumbed to colon cancer on March 25, 1918 in Paris, France. It is reported that he became increasingly depressed at the start of World War I, and lost the desire to fight off the disease. As he died, German guns were devastating the city. Sadly, his beloved daughter Claude-Emma only survived him by a year. Claude-Emma Debussy died on July 14, 1919 at the age of 13 from Diptheria.