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Stephen Walsh

An accessible and thought-provoking biographical study of Claude Debussy (1862-1918), arguably one of the three or four most influential composers of the early twentieth century.

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Claude Debussy was that rare creature, a composer who reinvented the language of music without alienating the majority of music lovers. He is the modernist everyone loves. How did he manage this? Was it through the association of his music with visual images, or was it simply that, by throwing out the rule book of the Paris Conservatoire where he studied, his music put beauty of sound above the spiritual ambitions of the German tradition from which those rules derived.
Stephen Walsh’s thought-provoking biography, told partly through the events of Debussy’s life, and partly through a critical discussion of his music, addresses these and other questions about one of the most influential composers of the early twentieth century.

Critic Reviews

Stephen Walsh brings us a composer for whom music was “a matter of colours and rhythmicised time”. To show what this actually means, Walsh offers a series of close readings of Debussy’s best known pieces, including Nuages and La Mer. And if you’re the sort of reader who expects an artist’s life to come leavened with some really great parties and some very bad hangovers, there’s plenty of that too.

Kathryn Hughes, Guardian, Books of the Year
Critic Reviews

Walsh. . . combines delicacy of perception, refinement of expression and quiet persistence, in a way not so far from the great composer himself.

Ivan Hewett, Daily Telegraph
Critic Reviews

An excellent new biography of Debussy . . . Walsh is a superb guide.

Ian Thomson, Observer
Critic Reviews

[A] wonderfully warm, wise and witty book about the greatest French composer of the modern era. As a comprehensive and integrated survey of Debussy’s life and work, it could hardly be bettered

Rupert Christiansen, Literary Review
Critic Reviews

Debussy: A Painter in Sound concentrates on what truly matters. Walsh is one of our most insightful writers on music, and his judgement always illuminates what it touches.

Philip Hensher, Spectator

Stephen Walsh is a leading English writer and broadcaster on classical music, the author of several books on Igor Stravinsky including a major two-volume biography, a large-scale study of the Russian nationalist group of composers known as the kuchka or Mighty Handful, and most recently a highly praised biography of Claude Debussy. He was for many years deputy music critic…

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