One of the most revered composers of the twentieth century, Claude Debussy (1862–1918) achieved the unheard of: he reinvented the language of music without alienating the majority of music lovers. Debussy drove French music into entirely new regions of beauty and excitement at a time when old traditions threatened to stifle it. Yet despite his profound influence on French culture, Debussy’s own life was complicated and often troubled by struggles over money, women, and ill health. Here, Stephen Walsh, acclaimed author of Stravinsky, chronicles both the composer himself and the unique moment in European history that bore him. Walsh’s engagingly original approach is to enrich a lively biography with analyses of Debussy’s music: from his first daring breaks with the rules as a Conservatoire student to his achievements as the greatest French composer of his time.
About the Author
Stephen Walsh is Emeritus Professor of Music at Cardiff University and the author of a number of books on music including Musorgsky and His Circle and the prizewinning, two-volume biography of Igor Stravinsky. He served for many years as deputy music critic for The Observer and writes reviews for a variety of publications. He lives in Herefordshire, England.
“[Debussy] shines a welcome light on the composer, his music, and his times.”—Library Journal
“Perceptive and authoritative. . . . A sensuous portrait of an iconic composer. . . . A richly detailed life of a modernist master.”—Kirkus (starred)
“Stephen Walsh has followed his magnificent, two-volume Stravinsky biography with this smaller but no less brilliant gem of a book on Debussy. Combining psychological perspicacity about his subject’s life with deep insight into his music, Walsh has made me not only better understand the composer—he has also made me want to re-listen to and re-reflect upon every piece that Debussy ever wrote.”—Harvey Sachs, author of Toscanini: Musician of Conscience
“Stephen Walsh’s Debussy: A Painter in Sound articulates with skill, taste and flashes of humor the evolution of an artistic giant who preferred to leave things ‘half said.’ It is impeccably researched and intellectually engrossing—a thorough and important study of the composer who forever changed the direction of music in our time.”—Stuart Isacoff, author of When the World Stopped to Listen: Van Cliburn’s Cold War Triumph and Its Aftermath
“In Debussy Stephen Walsh has produced a wonderfully detailed biography of a truly ground-breaking composer. This book should be of interest to any Debussy enthusiast.”—John Powell, author of Why You Love Music and How Music Works
“Compelling. . . . Finely tuned. . . . [Walsh] employs a delightfully fluent prose to carry the general reader along.”—Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian
“[A] wonderfully warm, wise and witty book about the greatest French composer of the modern era. As a comprehensive and integrated survey of Debussy’s life and work, it could hardly be bettered.”--Rupert Christiansen, Literary Review
“Walsh is one of our most insightful writers on music, and his judgment always illuminates what it touches. . . . Published to mark the centenary of the composer’s death, Debussy: A Painter in Sound concentrates on what truly matters.”—Philip Hensher, The Spectator
“An enjoyable and impressive achievement. . . . Lively yet learned. . . . Walsh depicts Debussy’s Paris with the same verve and scholarship that he applies to the man.”—The Economist
“A beautifully written study, mercifully free of academic jargon. . . . [Debussy is] a genuine intellectual biography. . . . It’s a tricky thing to bring off, but Walsh is certainly the right man for the job. . . . He gets as close as anyone to catching in words the peculiar quality of Debussy’s harmony. . . . [Walsh] combines delicacy of perception, refinement of expression and quiet persistence, in a way not so far from the great composer himself.”—Ivan Hewett, The Daily Telegraph
“Excellent. . . . [a] lucid and elegant introduction to the French revolutionary.”—Michael Henderson, The Times (UK)
“[An] excellent new biography. . . . [This] fascinating study will help to win [Debussy] new admirers. . . . Walsh is a superb guide to this music.”—Ian Thomson, The Observer