1958: Les Bijoutiers du clair de lune – Vadim
As I was on my way to work this morning, I was reminded that today is “D-Day” – Debussy day. He would be 150 years old today (born 22nd August 1862). Those that know his story will find a familiarity with that of many other “passionate artists”. I don’t want to compare the impact or quality of the work, but it is perhaps surprising that we are still “shocked” or “surprised” when current “artists” find their lives in turmoil. Our celebrity obsessed culture is full of stories that often suggest a deep unhappiness with life and the social conventions of the day. Debussy was from a very poor background and began piano lessons at the age of 7, by the time he was 18 he was showing considerable promise and was assisted by a Russian patroness Nadezha von Meck.
As with most historical figures, we are left with the edited highlights, the great moments or works, a legacy. Clair de Lune is perhaps Debussy’s most popular or well-known piece. It is believed to be inspired his love for Blanche Vasnier, a married woman with whom it is understood he had a long-term affair. It would be fair to say that he had a colourful personal life and living up to many of the stereotypes of passionate French male artists.
Debussy was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 47 and was one of the first people to undergo a colostomy operation. He died as a result of the cancer, but at the same time, the German army was bombing Paris, where he was living at the time. He was 55 when he died.
One of the great advantages of time is the ability to edit. This reminds me of the Olympics and many of the comments that I heard or read. I have no desire to undermine the significance of the achievements British athletes made, but spare a thought for those that did not make the team, either by a fraction of time or due to injury. Suggesting that a gold medal can be reduced to 4 years of hard work and the right funding is not terribly accurate, as many have access to the same resources and apply the same amount of training. A degree of luck or good fortune is required, timing is everything. It is not the case that whoever trains best wins, there are certainly similarities between those that “win” and focus is often cited as a key aspect of a winning mentality. Our media has a tendency to forget the daily struggles, (ok they will probably compensate for this with the Para-Olympics) yet it is the struggle that invariably produces the result, as Debussy’s life seems to typify. This applies to art, sport, economics and financial planning (and most aspects of life) achievement comes from pain and struggle, failure is the route to success.
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