Afternoon of a Faun

How Debussy Created a New Music for the Modern World

Series: Amadeus
Publisher: Amadeus Press
Format: Hardcover
Composer: Claude Debussy
Author: Harvey Lee Snyder

Claude Debussy was the father of the modern era in classical music. His innovations liberated Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Bartók to write their iconoclastic works, and his harmonic inventions are still heard in American jazz. Though he was among the most compelling figures of the Belle Époque, his life is little known to all but scholars; and of his considerable musical output, only Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, La mer, and Clair de lune are widely known.

Harvey Lee Snyder addresses this cultural neglect by presenting the composer and his music, without jargon or biographical trivia, in a richly detailed, accurate narrative that reads like a novel. Here is the story of a poor, unschooled Parisian boy swept by odd coincidences to the Paris Conservatory at age ten. Here is a brilliant man struggling to invent a tonal language capable of expressing his unique musical vision, finding inspiration not in Bach and Beethoven but in Mallarmé's poetry and the paintings of Whistler and Turner; a man determined to end two centuries of Germanic domination of European music. Here is a reclusive, gentle man whose misguided love affairs ended in scandal and scorn. His hard work failed to end decades of poverty and debt, but when he died in 1918, he was and has remained the foremost French composer of the twentieth century.

$29.99 (US)
Inventory #HL 00123940
ISBN: 9781574674491
UPC: 884088963392
Width: 6.0"
Length: 9.0"
390 pages


“The music of Claude Debussy is standard orchestral repertory these days, but when he composed his now-famous works, Belle Époque Europe hardly knew what to think. Author Harvey Lee Snyder renders the drama of Debussy's ground breaking compositions in his biography Afternoon of a Faun, as if he was conducting a well-prepared orchestra. By the end of the biography, readers can easily agree with what what French composer Léon Vallas wrote – that Debussy's music 'separated the music of the 20th century from that of the 19th, in the same manner as the art of Beethoven...separated the 19th and 18th centuries.'...Snyder's biography will connect many musical history dots for readers familiar with classical repertory.” –

“Music historians point to certain events which they claim ended one musical era and began the next. For example, it is said that the death of Johann Sebastian Bach in 1750 ended the Baroque period. As for the end of the Romantic period approximately 150 years later, it is not anyone's death that triggered it but the life of French composer Claude Debussy. This is one of the central themes of Afternoon of a Faun, Harvey Lee Snyder's marvelous biography of Debussy. After Debussy, according to Snyder and many others, nothing was ever the same...Snyder effectively conveys the circumstances of a man whose musical vision stretched deep into the 20th century but who could never quite overcome the political, emotional, and financial turmoil of his everyday life. In Snyder's prose, it's an irony as tragic as it is fascinating.” – Quarter Notes

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