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Claude Debussy (20th Century Composers) Paperback – 4 Apr 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Phaidon Press (4 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714835129
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714835129
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.6 x 21.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 747,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


"Roberts […] is a distinguished interpreter… An intimate portrait that takes us nearer to the heart of the music than any biography before… With copious quotes from the composer's letters and articles, Roberts charts the unstoppable evolution of his subtly revolutionary art – designed… but defining the course of Western music."―Michael Church, The Independent

"Incisive… Roberts meets the challenge of both person and music with empathy and acumen… As for the composer's writings […], here again Roberts is both sharp and sensible… Generous quotations from letters and memoirs support this elegantly written volume."―Roger Nichols, BBC Music Magazine

"Excellent design... Lavish illustrations... Roberts shows virtuosity in putting Debussy's music as a whole in the context of the man. So well does Roberts capture the unconventionality of the man [...] that descriptions of the revolutionary nature of the music seem nothing but natural."―Andrew Green, Piano

"it's no surprise that each book is beautifully produced on shiny thick paper and filled with gorgeous illustrations. The texts are excellent too."―Pittsburgh, PA Post Gazette

On the 20th Century Composers Series

"As a series, Phaidon's 20th Century Composers has brought remarkable variety and a welter of information, both necessary and delightfully trivial. Intended both for the general reader and for the more enthusiastically musical."―The Scotsman


Born near Paris in 1862, Claude Debussy was one of the most influential composers of his age, affecting profoundly the works of later generations of composers, both in his native France and elsewhere. He was trained at the Paris Conservatoire, and decided there on a career as a composer rather than as a pianist, his original intention. His highly characteristic musical language, thoroughly French in inspiration, extended the contemporary limits of harmony and form, with a remarkably delicate command of nuance, whether in composition for the piano or in the handling of a relatively large orchestra. Considered by many to be the most important composer of piano music since Chopin, Debussy also produced a single opera, "Pelleas et Melisande", which brought an entirely new tone to the genre. This, however, was his only completed opera and instead his work predominantly comprises orchestral pieces, piano sets and songs. The orchestral works include "The Three Nocturnes" (1899), "The Three Images" (1912) and "The Ballet Jeux" (1913).

Debussy's piano music begins with works that, Verlaine fashion, look back at earlier musical styles with a modern cynicism (Suite bergamasque, 1890; Pour le piano, 1901). But then, as in the orchestral pieces, Debussy began to associate his music with visual impressions of the East, Spain, landscapes etc, in a sequence of sets of short pieces. His last volume of "Etudes" (1915) interprets similar varieties of style and texture purely as pianistic exercises and includes pieces that develop irregular form to an extreme, as well as others influenced by the young Stravinsky (a presence too in the suite En blanc et noir for two pianos, 1915). A planned set of six chamber sonatas was sadly cut short by the composer's death from cancer in 1918. Perhaps the most influential composer of his generation (and certainly one who provoked much contemporary controversy), Debussy's influence continues to be felt in the twenty-first century.

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23 February 2012
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Most helpful customer reviews on 4.5 out of 5 stars 9 reviews
5.0 out of 5 starsBrilliant. Rigorously discerning. Revelatory. Beautifully written.
31 December 2017 - Published on
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Steven H Propp
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4.0 out of 5 starsVery nice, sensitive depiction of a seminal figure who was ...
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5.0 out of 5 starsFive Stars
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Louie Bourland
5.0 out of 5 starsExcellent Book on Claude Debussy.
2 July 2008 - Published on
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