In the new issue of Standpoint magazine, I examine the reasons for my Debussy aversion – and my concern that we are about to be flooded with his music over the next two years.
Invitations have begun to land for the centenary year and my wastebin is bulging. Wild fauns will not drag me to Garsington Opera’s new Pelléas production in June, nor to the Vienna State Opera’s revival that same month. If I take the sea air at Eastbourne, I shall give a wide berth to the Grand Hotel, where Debussy wrote most of La Mer. On the Bois du Boulogne, his final home, I shall pay no respects.
My dislike of Debussy — more pronounced than of any other important composer — is as much analytical as it is aesthetic. His denial of meaning is the antithesis of Frankl’s search for meaning, a complacency so far removed from my view of the world that I can do nothing but acknowledge it and move on. Pure music, which begins with Debussy, infects the modernist mainstream to the point where it becomes impermissible to express any message in music. You had only to hear Boulez denounce Shostakovich as “reactionary” to understand how effectively Debussy sanitised music of the possibility of meaning.
Read the full essay here.