The weekend read: Debussy’s last summer of happiness

The weekend read: Debussy’s last summer of happiness


norman lebrecht

March 21, 2015

By Sudic Bose, Managing Editor of the American Scholar:


Increasingly melancholy and reclusive in the last decade or so of his life, the composer only rarely ventured beyond his home overlooking the broad Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, in Paris’s 16th arrondissement. Relations with his second wife, Emma, had long been strained, and he suffered almost constantly from hemorrhages and hemorrhoids, symptoms of the rectal cancer that had yet to be diagnosed. Always something of a penniless bohemian with wildly expensive tastes, he had been sinking even further into debt. He was also finding it difficult to compose—burdened not only by the weight of his past success but also by concerns of his place in a musical world upended by the emergence of Igor Stravinsky. Germany’s declaration of war on France in August 1914 brought greater hardships.

And then the offer of a summer home in 1915 yielded that phenomenal set of piano études. Read on here.

Debussy Picnic

photo: Lebrecht Music&Arts


  • Neil van der Linden says:

    Mitsuko Uchida on the etudes. In Deutsch.

  • Erwin Poelstra says:

    I can warmly recommend the recording of the complete Études made by Anatoly Vedernikov and Monique Haas.