Episode 37: Claude Channels Chopin

Etude in G-sharp minor, Op. 25, No. 6

rc-debussy-200“The emotional satisfaction can’t be equaled in any of the other arts. Forgive me, I sound as if I’ve just discovered music.”

Claude Debussy had just RE-discovered the music of his favorite composer: Fryderyk Chopin. The year was 1915, and Debussy, desperately ill with cancer, and devastated by the first World War, lost the ability to “think in music,” as he called it.

Out of money and ideas, Debussy agreed to edit a new complete edition of Chopin’s works. Debussy had always worshiped Chopin. His first piano teacher in Paris was a Madame de Fleurville, who was hired by the Debussy family on the strength of her claim that she once studied with the Polish piano master. Chopin is the greatest of all,” Debussy later said. “For with the piano alone he discovered everything”

Not QUITE everything.

Debussy, it turned out, still had a few pianistic discoveries of his own to share with the world. Just as editing the Preludes and Fugues of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier inspired Chopin’s 24 Preludes, so too did studying Chopin’s works prompt Debussy to compose his own set of Twelve Etudes. Technically demanding and tremendously musical, just as Chopin would have it…filtered through the unique prism of Claude Debussy.

As he grew more ill Debussy remarked, “Should I someday reach heaven I would wish to be seated either at the left hand of Chopin or the right hand of Schumann.” - Mike McKay & Benjamin K. Roe

Radio Chopin Episode 37: Claude Channels Chopin

Etude in G-sharp minor, Op. 25, No. 6