Biography

From Préludes to Jeux

1910

20 February
First performance of Ibéria at Concerts Colonne, conductor Gabriel Pierné. Publication of Hommage à Haydn.

2 March
First performance of Rondes de printemps in the Concerts Durand, at the Salle Gaveau, conducted by the composer.

17 April
Debussy attends the first French performance of Mahler's Second symphony, conducted by the composer at Trocadéro. Gustave Mahler had that same February conducted the Nocturnes in New York, and in March, the Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune.

20 April
First concert of the new Société musicale indépendante, where Maurice Ravel gives the first performance of D'un cahier d'esquisses.

May
Composition of Trois Ballades de François Villon. Abortive plans to tour the United States.
Arthur Hartmann makes a violin and piano transcription of the eighth Prélude, La Fille aux cheveux de lin.

25 May
Debussy plays four of his Préludes for piano at the Société musicale indépendante.

25 June
First performance of L'oiseau de feuby Igor Stravinsky at the Ballets russes. The two composers meet for the first time.

July
Debussy composes a new piece for the Conservatoire clarinet competition, Petite pièce. He writes La plus que lente, a piece for the violinist Leoni, a waltz originally composed for piano, also published by Durand in a piano-violin transcription. .
Debussy stops paying alimony to Lilly Texier.

Summer
Marital difficulties beset him with Emma, and family life weighs down on Debussy.

Beginning September
Signs contract for a ballet commissioned by Maud Allan, Isis, which was in December to become Khamma.

Postcard written by Debussy to his daughter Chouchou (Vienna 2-12-1910) [© BnF]

28 October
Debussy's father, Manuel-Achille, dies aged 74.

29 November- 7 December
Eight-day trip to Vienna and Budapest, where the composer conducts his own works. Debussy hears Carmen at Vienna. At hotel Kranz he receives a letter from Gabriele D'Annunzio, suggesting collaboration.

Ida Rubinstein created the part of the character in disguise in Martyre de saint Sébastien, mystery in five acts by Gabriele D'Annunzio and Claude Debussy [© BnF]

9 December
Back in Paris, Debussy almost immediately signs a contract to write the music for a four-act drama by Gabriele D'Annunzio, Saint Sébastien, subsequently to be published as Le Martyre de saint Sébastien, a mystery in five acts and five mansions, with Ida Rubinstein in the title role.

1911

3 January
Gustave Mahler conducts Ibéria in New York.

11 January
Debussy receives the first fragment of the libretto of Martyre de saint Sébastien.

14 January
Jane Bathori and Ricardo Viñes give the first performance of Promenoir des deux amants.

25 January
Dolly Bardac, Emma's daughter, weds Gaston de Tinan.

5 March
Debussy conducts the orchestral version of Trois Ballades de François Villon at the Concerts Séchiari, with the baritone Charles W. Clark.

25 March
At the Cercle Musical Charles Domergue, Debussy gives a further performance of Trois Ballades de François Villon, with the baritone Jean Périer. Also on the programme are his orchestration of Erik Satie's Gymnopédies 1 and 3, and Children's corner in André Caplet's orchestration.

April
Beginning of rehearsals at the Châtelet theatre of Martyre de saint Sébastien, under conductor André Caplet..

3 May
Complete performance of Les Préludes (first book) at Salle Pleyel, by Jane Mortier.

16 May
The archbishop of Paris places an interdict on Gabriele D'Annunzio's theatre piece.

22 May
First night of Martyre de saint Sébastien at Théâtre du Châtelet, conductor André Caplet.

Erik Satie photographed at Debussy's home (June 1911) [© Centre Debussy]
Igor Stravinsky photographed in Debussy's study (June 1911) [© Centre Debussy]

June
Igor Stravinsky, Erik Satie and Debussy photograph one another at Debussy's.

19 June
Departure for Turin with Chouchou and Emma, where Debussy conducts his works.

Summer
Restful holiday at Houlgate.

October
Abortive plan to travel to Boston for a performance of Pelléas et Mélisande, conducted by André Caplet.

1912

January
Piano reduction of Khamma completed.

12 February
First performance of a concert version of Martyre de saint Sébastien at New York, conductor Kurt Schindler.

26 February
The young Italian composer Alfredo Casella visits Debussy.

March
The writer Charles Morice suggests that Debussy compose a lyric work based on his Poème chanté et dansé d'après Verlaine, under the title Crimen amoris.

31 March
Henri Busser completes the orchestration of Printemps, the symphonic suite that was Debussy's second piece submitted to Paris at the time of his scholarship in Rome.

May
Polemic begins with the dancer Maud Allan over Khamma. The piano reduction, although published in September, was not put on the shelves until 1916.

29 May
Choreographed version of Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune by the Ballets russes. Debussy was profoundly critical of Nijinski's choreography.

2 June
Igor Stravinsky and Debussy sight-read the piano reduction of Sacre du printemps at Louis Laloy's, Debussy taking the bass.

14 and 17 June
Le Martyre de saint Sébastien given in concert version by Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht at the Société musicale indépendante.

18 June
Debussy and Diaghilev sign the contract for the ballet music Jeux, Debussy getting down to work in August.

October
Debussy faces extreme financial pressure and begs a loan from Durand and Louis Laloy.

November
He returns to musical criticism with the S.I.M. review. Émile Vuillermoz, the new editor-in-chief, gives a column to Debussy as the musical critic of the Concerts Colonne and to Vincent d'Indy for the Concerts Lamoureux.

1913

25 January
Hundredth performance of Pelléas et Mélisande at the Opéra-Comique, conducted by Franz Ruhlmann, with Marguerite Carré in the title role.

26 January
First performance of the three Images pour orchestre at Concerts Colonne, conducted by the composer.

28 January
Dinner at Café Riche to mark the hundredth performance of Pelléas et Mélisande.

Charles Koechlin commissioned to do the orchestration of Khamma.

5 March
Debussy plays the first three Préludes of the second book at Salle Érard.

2 April
Inauguration of Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, where Debussy conducts Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune.

19 April
Publication of the second book of Préludes for piano.

5 May
Performance at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées of the Nocturnes to a choreography by Loie Fuller on a set designed by Fernand Ochsé, conducted by Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht.

Jeux, manuscript, page 1 [© BnF]

15 May
First performance of Jeux at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, conducted by Pierre Monteux.

12 June
First complete performance of Préludes (second book) in London by Walter Rummel.

19 June
Debussy Gala organized by Émile Vuillermoz at the Comédie des Champs-Élysées.

Summer
Debussy composes Trois Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé. He begins composing La Boîte à joujoux, a ballet for children on a libretto by André Hellé.
Debussy's financial problems worsen. Emma Debussy falls ill and he contemplates suicide.

1 December
First performance of Syrinx, the publisher's title for the solo flute piece that Debussy composed for Gabriel Mourey's Psyché.

1-16 December
Trip to Moscow and Saint-Petersburg for a concert tour.

1914

Chouchou Debussy and Dolly Bardac photographed around 1914 [© Centre Debussy]

January
Debussy works on a new project, Le Palais du silence, which would become No-ja-li but was never completed.

27 January
New contract signed for the work planned with Charles Morice after Verlaine, the title Crimen amoris being replaced by Fête galante.

February
Debussy writes a last article for the S.I.M. review, published on 1 March, and corrects the proofs of Monsieur Croche antidilettante.

18-24 February
Travels to Rome, where he conducts La Mer, Rondes de printemps, Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune and Marche écossaise at the Augusteo.

26 February - 2 March>
Travels to Amsterdam, where he conducts the Nocturnes (I et II), Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune and Marche ecossaise at the Concertgebouw.

31 March
Debussy Festival at the Philharmonic Society. Debussy accompanies Ninon Vallin for the first performance of Trois Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé.

April
Concert in Holland. Debussy conducts the Nocturnes, Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune and Marche écossaise.

4 May
First performance of the ballet Spring at Alhambra in London, based on the symphonic suite Printemps orchestrated by Henri Busser, on instructions from Debussy.

7 May
Performance at the Châtelet theatre of extracts from Children's Corner (orchestration by André Caplet) to a choreography by Loie Fuller, Concerts Colonne orchestra conducted by Gabriel Pierné.

May
Debussy's last interview, by Dimitri Calvocoressi for a monthly magazine in Philadelphia.

16 - 19 July
Last trip to London for a concert at the Queen's Hall.

July
Debussy completes Six Épigraphes antiques, from the earlier incidental music composed for Chansons de Bilitis in 1901.

1 August
General mobilisation. Debussy is in Paris.

4 September
As the Germans advance, Debussy and his family take refuge in Angers, where they spend a month in the Grand Hôtel.

October
Jacques Durand begins publishing the scores of the major classic composers in new editions, and Debussy agrees to supervise Chopin's works..

November
Debussy composes the Berceuse héroïque “in homage to His Majesty King Albert the First of Belgium and his soldiers”.