For once it is over, it will only make you miss the moments when they were real, but I thank you for them once again and ask you to give me such as often as possible. How I would like to profit by your advice, imparted in such friendship, but I think that the seduction the contemplation of masterpieces exerts on the imagination demands a completely different moral state than that in which I am. You know my character very well, and you also know how much I am subject to ambient influences, and as well how this entire city oppresses, annihilates me. I am suffocating and am perfectly incapable of any good motion to shake up all this vile torpor, which makes me see things in a detestable light. That doesn’t go so far as to have lost the sense for beautiful things, but I don’t love them as one should, and so that it would be truly profitable for me. All this because I am here by virtue of a decree forcing me to feel the shadow of the Academy weighing down upon me. Oh! the Villa Médici is so full of the academic legend, from the doorman in this green uniform to the Director, who raises his gaze to the sky with an ecstatic air every time he speaks of it, and the encomiums that have been held on Michelangelo, Raphael, etc. sound like speeches given on their admission to the Academy. I am quite sure that Michelangelo would really laugh if he heard all that. I don’t know if I am mistaken, but it seems to me that Michelangelo is modernism pushed to its outermost limitations; he ventured up to the point of madness, and I think that if one followed his path, it wouldn’t lead you straight to the Institute. It is true that we are lads who are too small to venture down these paths. If you were here with me, how I would talk with you. How I feel, however, that as much as I would like it, it isn’t going to happen. All I will be bringing back from Rome will be the fever. I already have one (not Roman) which is another reason for me to be very sad and think far too much of the friendship I left behind in Paris not to want to return there as quickly as possible. You are perhaps going to find me quite ungrateful to reply so sadly to your letter and your kindness, which is truly so good, professor, at this way of spending my time. I ask you pardon for it, I have to do better. I am sad and ill, to boot, and as you are the only person to whom I can say all that I think, I profit by it without fearing the matter of boring you about me too much. No matter I am quite afraid that if I stay here too long I will lose a lot of time for nothing, that that will be the death of many of my artistic projects, and I tell you quite frankly of not being able to wait for the moment of my deliverance [...]“. In a lengthy postscript, Debussy has added, „I am very glad about the success of your premiere by Mme Carvalho. As to the rest, the moment she heard Madame Vasnier, it was over. I think Mme. Carvalho is artist enough that the pleasure of the lessons given on the one part and received on the other is equal. I ask you to give my regards to Madame Vasnier and embrace Marguerite and Maurice for me. Tell them I miss them very much. I have written to Gounod. He has not yet replied“. In the margin of the first page, Debussy has also written, „As to the music as performed in Rome, it is best not to talk about it“. - While at the Paris Conservatoire, Debussy began studying composition under the French composer Ernest Guirand at the end of 1880, and under his guidance, won the second Prix de Rome in 1883 and the first Prix de Rome the following year with his cantata L’enfant prodigue (The Prodigal Child). As holder of the Grand Prix de Rome, he was given a three-year stint at the Villa Médici, which was supposed to be an ideal location to pursue his creative work. However, the stay only distressed him as he was separated from the woman he loved (Mme Vasnier, an amateur singer) and he was displeased by the Villa’s architecture, the pretensions of his fellow students and the necessity to produce a series of ‘envois’ for the Académie des Beaux Arts. He remained in Rome for the minimum permitted period of two years and returned to his parents’ home in Paris in February 1887. Mme Carvalho, whom Debussy discusses in his postscript, was the soprano Marie Miolan who used the name Caroline Carvalho after her marriage to the French baritone and opera manager, Leon Carvalho. Charles Gounod, who had not yet replied to Debussy’s letter, is the French composer whose works include the operas “Faust” and “Roméo et Juliette,” and the famous song “Ave Maria,” based on Bach’s first prelude. - 2) Autograph letter signed (“A Debussy”), 4 pages (7 x 4.5 in.; 178 x 114 mm.), Villa Médici, [Rome], 4 June 1885, to Monsieur [Vasnier]. He writes in full: „You must think something serious has happened to me for being so late in answering your good and charming letter. This something serious is simply the fever, which has recurred very strongly. At last, for some days I am feeling better and hope to be rid of it. Ah! That, for example, has not increased my liking of the villa. On the contrary, I assure you that I often got the idea of leaving these horrid barracks where life is so sad and fever is too easy to get. And there are people who extolled, glorified the climate of Italy. I find this assertion a bit sinister. Above all now. Unfortunately, your letter, where the most judicious arguments are condensed--so much that I can’t get the slightest observation in--combatted my temptation to flee, and it appears that it is right, as I am still here, and I am going to sit down to work. Are you happy? On this topic, let me talk to you at length, that would be very precious to me and remind of our evenings back then. I have changed my mind for my first work to be sent in, and I won’t do it, as I had intended, with Zuleima. It is too old and feels the old leash too much. These great imbeciles of verses which are only great by virtue of their length are insufferable, and my music would be in the situation of toppling under the weight. Then a more serious matter is that, I think I could never lock my music into too correct a form. I hasten to tell you that I am not speaking of musical form. It is simply from a literary point of view. I would always like best a thing where in some way the action will be sacrificed to the expression of the feelings of the soul, pursued at length; it seems to me that there the music can make itself more human, more true to life that one can discover and refine the means of rendering it. I don’t know if I have already spoken to you about Diane au bois [Diane in the Woods], by Th. de Banville. I think I did, and it is indeed that which is going to be the attempted project and first work submitted. There is one more reason to make me do Diane. It is that it in no way reminds me of the poems which are used for submitted works, which are basically only perfected cantatas. Thank God I have enough of one and it seems to me that one must profit by the only good thing the villa has (one of your arguments), i.e., the complete freedom to work, to make an original thing and not always fall back into the same path. It is certain that 6th Institute will not be of my opinion and will evidently find that its path is the only good one. So much the worse! I love my liberty too much and that which is mine. At least, if it forbids me the liberty of means, I could avenge myself with that of the spirit. But that is only a whim; the only true thing is that I can only do this kind of music. Now, will I be strong enough to do it, is what I don’t know. In any case I will do everything I can so that somebody will be happy with it; the others I don’t care about. I hope that you know that you are among those that I like to please, and to prove it to me, write me a real long letter soon to give me courage and busy yourself a little with widening the doors of my prison. For I will not always have courage. I couldn’t, and I already find it very good on the part of a boy as little practical as I to have some for a few months. Please give my respectful regards to Madame Vasniers, embrace Marguerite and Maurice and ask them if they haven’t forgotten the grape. You won’t perhaps understand, but they will, and you, dear Monsieur, believe my complete friendship. In a postscript, Debussy has added, We are still without a director. He has to be of pretty good manners, for it remains to be seen. It is hoped that it will be attained at the end of the week“. Debussy submitted “Zuleima” after all, and he abandoned “Diane au bois”. “Zuleima,” a work for chorus and orchestra, written in 1885 and 1886, was one of the four “envoie” he was obliged to submit, and the earliest of his orchestral works to find a place in modern repertory. The Institute considered the submitted work strange, and incomprehensible. In its two movements Debussy tried “to express somehow the slow, agonizing birth of beings and of objects in nature, then the gradual blossoming, and finally an outburst of joy at being reborn to a new life.” The jury of the Académie censured its “vague impressionism” (the first recorded use of this dangerous term to describe Debussy’s music) while admitting that, whatever Debussy’s faults, banality was not one. Unfortunately the original full score is lost, and the version made from a piano score in 1912 by Busser, excluding as it does the female chorus, can give only a rough idea of it. The most interesting features of the score are the pentatonic opening of unaccompanied melody and the amalgamation of the two main tunes to form the climax. The first movement begins and ends in F major in spite of (or perhaps because of) Saint-Saëns’ objection to this key for the orchestra in “Zuleima” there are Wagnerian echoes at the beginning of the second movement; and the “outburst of joy” is rather brashly Lisztian. - 3) Autograph letter signed (“Claude Debussy”), 1 page (6 x 5.12 in.; 152 x 130 mm.), 64 Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, 24 November 1907, to an unnamed correspondent; with integral blank. A poignant letter written in the throes of composition. Debussy explains that I am in the situation of someone from whom a manuscript is being torn page by page, it is intolerable and agitating. That is why I did not ask you to come until now. However I shall expect you next Tuesday at 2... At this time, Debussy was engaged in correcting the score of his orchestral suite “La Mer,” and conducted a memorable performance of it at the Queen’s Hall, London, on 1 February 1908. He was the founder of modern musical impressionism, and once said that because be loved music so passionately be was trying to “free it from the barren conditions that stifle it.” - 4) Autograph letter signed (“Claude Debussy”), 1 page (7.25 x 5.62 in.; 184 x 143 mm.), 80 Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, [Paris], 23 February 1909, to an unnamed minister, on his imprinted stationery; with integral blank. Expressing his angst toward his brother after he hastily resigned from the Companie des Chemins, he writes in full: I did not immediately thank you for your kindly reaction to my letter, because I was put in a ridiculous situation by the immature resolutions of my brother who, without any prior notice, resigned from the Companie des Chemins de Fer, to take a position as manager in a Havre factory. There is no longer any purpose to my soliciting your benevolence in this matter. Let me take refuge in my music, which you, so kindly, like. It is the only argument that can still speak in my favor. - 5) Autograph letter signed (“Claude Debussy”), 1 page (10.25 x 7.87 in.; 260 x 200 mm.), 17 November 1913, to Mr. Berthon, on his imprinted stationery. He writes in full: „The circumstances are not as ‚trivial’ as your kind cordiality wants to believe. Not only is the Russian police officer ‚pitiless’ but his soul is, by a particularly deeply-rooted tradition, defiant For that matter, you will spare me useless discussions; do not believe, however, that I want to introduce seditious brochures. Since my trip might be brought forward to about a week, I would very much appreciate a rapid solution. Thanks again“..