Anniversaries: Claude Debussy Born 150 Years Ago

Born August 22, 1862 in St.-Germaine-en-Laye, France, Claude-Achille Debussy was a child prodigy pianist who was admitted to the Paris Conservatory at age 10. Now generally considered to have been the greatest French composer, Debussy is proof that great art can come from terrible human beings. He was supremely self-centered and selfish. Two women -- one his wife -- attempted to kill themselves after he ended his relationships with them in cruelly casual fashion; his behavior was so beyond acceptable norms, even by bohemian French standards, that many of his friends turned their backs on him. In the midst of his greatest personal controversy, when he'd left his wife for a married woman and moved with the latter to England for awhile after to escape the constant recriminations, he wrote his biggest masterpiece, La Mer.

But, of course, there's nothing the French enjoy more than a controversy. Debussy's music was controversial as well.

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