Debussy Bibliography

Biographies and Rememberances

Claude Debussy : His Life and Works
Leon Vallas, Dover, 1973 (orig. 1933)
One of the most famous Debussy biographies by the man who defines "Debussy Worshipper". At times very poetic but of dubious objectivity.

Debussy Remembered
Roger Nichols, Amadeus Press, 1992
A collection of essays about Debussy by his contemporaries. Some of them are quite entertaining.

Debussy, His Life and Mind (in two volumes)
Edward Lockspeiser, Cassell, 1979 (vol1) 1978 (vol2)
The definitive biography, unfortunately the english edition is out of print. The new french edition has extensive commentary.

A Portrait of Claude Debussy
Marcel Dietschy, Oxford University Press, 1994
A good biography, more oriented towards the music than usual.

Debussy Man and Artist
Oscar Thompson, Dover, 1965 (orig. 1937)
A thoroughly enjoyable biography.

Claude Debussy Master of Dreams
Maurice Dumesnil, Greenwood Press, 1970 (orig. 1940)
Yet another biography. I haven't read this one, but it has lots of dramatic accounts of conversations as literal quotations. Typical: '"But--" Claude began'. Makes you wonder.

Debussy in His Own Words

Debussy Letters
Francois Lesure and Roger Nichols (Editors), Faber and Faber, 1987
A wonderful source of insights into Debussy's life and personality, and a great source of quotes such as:

"Composers aren't daring enough. They're afraid of that sacred idol called 'common sense', which is the most dreadful thing I know - after all, it's no more than a religion founded to excuse the ubiquity of imbeciles!"

Debussy on Music
David Langham Smith and Francois Lesure (Editors), Cornell University Press, 1977
A collection of Debussy's writings as a music critic, including the opinions of Monsieur Croche. Another source of insights into Debussy's personality.

About His Piano Music

Images : The Piano Music of Claude Debussy
Paul Roberts, Amadeus Press, 1996
A remarkable and inspiring book on the interpretation of Debussy's piano works. I cannot recommend this book too highly.

The Piano Sonority of Claude Debussy (Studies in the History and Interpretation of Music, Vol 43)
Virginia Raad, Edwin Mellen Press, 1995
A discussion of Debussy's piano works from the perspective of their sound. In the end somewhat disappointing in view of its high price.

The Piano Works of Claude Debussy
Elie Robert Schmitz, Dover, 1966
The classic book on the interpretation of Debussy's piano works.

"Gieseking's Pedaling in Debussy and Ravel" by Dean Elder
The Pianist's Guide To Pedaling
Joseph Banowetz, Indiana University Press, 1985
An essay on pedaling Debussy's (and Ravel's) works, which is critical in the interpretation of Debussy's piano music. Includes a description of a master class by Gieseking on La Cathedrale Engloutie. The rest of the book is just as wonderful and well worth reading.

About His Music in General

Debussy Studies
Richard Langham Smith (Editor), Cambridge University Press, 1997
An eclectic collection of essays about Debussy. Contents:

1. The definition of timbre in the process of composition of Jeaux
Myriam Chimenes

2. Waiting for Golaud: the concept of time in Pelleas
David Grayson

3. Sirens in the Labyrinth: amendments in Debussy's Nocturnes
Denis Herlin

4. Debussy's piano music: sources and performance
Roy Howat

5. Portrait of the artist as Roderick Usher
Jean-Michael Nectoux

6. The reception of Debussy's music in Britain up to 1914
Roger Nichols

7. Debussy and Satie
Robert Orledge

8. Semantic and structural issues in Debussy's Mallarme songs
Marie Solf

9. 'Le jeunesse du Cid': a mislaid act in Rodrigue at Chimene?
Richard Langham Smith

Music of Claude Debussy (Composers of the Twentieth Century)
Richard S. Parks, Yale University Press, 1990
A deep and thorough examination of the structure of Debussy's music via Shenkerian analysis.

Debussy in Proportion: A Musical Analysis
Roy Howat, Cambridge University Press, 1983
Howat points out that many of Debussy's works seem to make strong use of the ratios of the golden mean and bisection. Howat then proposes that this is intentional and provides insight into Debussy's secrets of composition.

Claude Debussy : Pelleas Et Melisande (Cambridge Opera Handbooks)
Roger Nichols and Richard Langham Smith, Cambridge University Press, 1989
A discussion of the history, structure and performance of the great opera.

Debussy : La Mer (Cambridge Music Handbooks)
Simon Trezise, Cambridge University Press, 1994
A discussion of the history, structure and performance of the great orchestral work.

Debussy : Prelude to "The Afternoon of a Faun" (Norton Critical Scores)
Roger Nichols, Richard Langham Smith, Cambridge University Press, 1970
The complete score, poem, history and analysis of the breakthrough piece.

The Singer's Debussy
Marie-Claire Rohinsky (Editor), Pelion Press, 1987
The complete song lyrics of Debussy in French with phonetic transcriptions and word-for-word English translations

The Theories of Claude Debussy, Musicien Francais
Leon Vallas, Hyperion, 1979 (orig. 1929), reprinted by Encore Music Editions
A poetic, somewhat rambling but ultimately inspiring discussion of Debussy's musical style.

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