2018 marks 100 years since the death of Debussy – join us this autumn to celebrate his life and work

From jazz to spoken word and, of course, beautiful piano music, we’re looking back across a century of Debussy, and forward to new interpretations of his harmonies and soundscapes.

Eddie Parker’s Debussy Mirrored Ensemble

Firstly, we’re welcoming Eddie Parker’s Debussy Mirrored Ensemble on Friday 26 October, from 8pm. Tickets are available here.

Eddie Parker’s life-long passion for Debussy is celebrated here with new works inspired by the work of the radical French composer. A fusion of jazz and classical performance, as well as vocals, magical new sounds and harmonies, and stunning virtuosity, it’s a wonderful new interpretation of Debussy in this centenary year.

 

Rêverie

Next, and as a part of our inaugural Bristol Keyboard Festival #BristolKeys – Rêverie: The life and loves of Claude DebussyOn Sunday 4 November, from 7.30pm, with tickets available here.

Narrated by actor Simon Russell Beale, and with pianist Lucy Parham, the BBC Music Magazine called this ‘one of the must see events on the musical calendar’. Punctuated with solo piano works – including Clair de Lune, Rêverie, and the Etudes, amongst many more – the narrative follows Debussy’s rise to success through to his untimely death in 1918. Absorbing and beautiful.

 

Fun fact: Debussy loved Shakespeare – his ‘La Danse de Puck’ is inspired by ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

A little more about Debussy…

Born in 1862, Debussy was a contemporary of the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists and Expressionists, though he rejected parallels drawn between his “rule-breaking”, sensual music and the radical new art movements of the time.

Finding fame in the Prix de Rome in 1885, he rose to popularity and prominence in Paris. Painting himself an artistic outcast, whilst enjoying widespread public reception, his contemporaries and friends included Ravel and Stravinsky.

His scandalous private life caused a stir when he left his first wife, Lily (who attempted suicide as a result), for his second wife Emma, the mother of one of his pupils. To escape the gossip of Paris, Debussy and Emma went to England, where he completed ‘La Mer’ before returning home for the birth of their daughter, Claude-Emma, or, “Chouchou”. Debussy notoriously preferred music to people, however doted on his daughter, writing her the ‘Children’s Corner Suite’ in 1908.

The following year, Debussy was diagnosed with cancer, which he battled for another 9 years until his death in 1918. In the final years of his career, Debussy worked with Mahler, Diaghilev and Stravinsky, and also made an enemy of contemporary Saint-Saens.

Fun fact: Debussy was a recording artist! He recorded a gramophone accompaniment in 1904, and created a set of commercial piano rolls in 1913.

Debussy died at home on 25 March 1918, and in spite of the bombardment of Paris by the Germans, a public funeral was held. Following the war, he was reinterred in a garden cemetery in line with his dying wishes; his wife and daughter are buried with him.

Find out more about Debussy’s turbulent life with Simon Russell Beale, and with pianist Lucy Parham on Sunday 4 November, from 7.30pm.

Meanwhile…

1918 was a momentous year – and not just because of Debussy’s death and the legacy his music left to listeners across the ensuing century. It also marked the Armistice of World War 1 – celebrated in our Armistice 100 series, and the first women’s suffrage being granted in the UK through the Representation of the People Act. Elsewhere, Russia broke out in civil war following its chaotic 1917 Revolution, whilst the Spanish Flu epidemic raged in countries across the globe. Famous 1918 births include Spike Milligan, Nelson Mandela and Leonard Bernstein, whilst famous 1918 deaths, as well as Debussy, include Gustav Klimt, and the Romanov Family.

Fun fact: Debussy’s arguably most famous piece, ‘Clair de Lune’, provided the soundtrack for ‘the most expensive commercial ever’ in 2004. Baz Luhrmann’s ‘No 5: The Film’ for Chanel starred Nicole Kidman, and was created on an £18m budget.