Debussy: A Painter in Sound

Stephen Walsh. Knopf, $28.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5247-3192-2
Walsh (Stravinsky) uses the musical compositions of French composer Achille-Claude Debussy (1862–1918) as a framework to tell the story of his short life in this richly descriptive biography. Debussy was often referred to as an impressionist composer, as he was influenced by the works of impressionist artists Claude Monet and Stéphane Mallarmé, and Walsh gives a thorough history of Debussy’s artistic growth. Working against a rigid, conservative musical tradition, Debussy nevertheless created a radical body of work where visual expression or “painting in sound” was paramount. Walsh writes accessibly about his music: “ ‘Le Soirée dans Greande’ is a street scene; atmosphere with passersby. The C sharp ostinato at the start hangs expectantly in the air and soon a distant voice intones one of those laments.” In the chapter “Songs for Marie,” Walsh describes the affair Debussy had with Marie-Rosalie Texier, who would later become his wife and for whom he wrote several songs in which “one can hear her voice almost as if she were in the room singing them.” Throughout, Walsh wonderfully underscores Debussy’s importance as a composer. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/05/2018
Release date: 10/23/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-1-5247-3193-9
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-525-43263-0
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