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Thursday, 12 April 2012, 10:30AM
Barnard's Inn Hall

Part Two: Debussy and the Independent Art Bookshop

Denis Herlin

In July 1893, a score for voice and piano of Debussy’s La Damoiselle élue was published, with a decorative cover illustrated by Maurice Denis. The publisher of this editorial masterpiece was not, however, part of the music publishing world. It was published, in fact, by the composer and occultist Edmond Bailly, who owned a small bookshop at 11 rue de la Chaussée d’Antin in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. Between 1890 and 1895, Bailly published all the authors of the Symbolist generation, including Henry de Régnier, André Gide, Pierre Louÿs, Paul Claudel, and even Oscar Wilde in the form of the French version of Salomé. The bookshop was also a place of exchange and Debussy frequented the place regularly. Poets, illustrators and musicians met there towards the end of each afternoon to discuss art. Such a convergence the arts in the unique environment that was the Librairie de l’Art indépendant could not help but permeate and deeply enrich Debussy’s work. In August 1893, the composer began to write Pelléas et Mélisande. It seems, therefore, that the atmosphere of the Librairie de l’Art indépendant had a significant impact on the birth of Debussy’s major masterpiece. 

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Denis Herlin is Director of Research at the Institut de recherche sur le patrimoine musical en France. He has published three catalogues of music collections and numerous articles on French Baroque music and on the work of Claude Debussy. His critical editions include Rameau’s Pièces de clavecin en concerts (with Davitt Moroney), Siret’s Pièces de clavecin, Fauré’s two Quartets with piano, and Debussy’s Nocturnes. He is co-author, with Sylvie Bouissou and Pascal Denécheau, of the first two volumes of the Catalogue thématique des œuvres de Jean-Philippe Rameau (2003, 2007), the third volume of which is due to appear in 2012. With Bruce Gustafson, he is preparing a critical edition of Chambonnières’s keyboard music. General editor of theŒuvres complètes de Debussy since 2002, he has published the complete correspondence of Debussy (2005, with François Lesure). From 2009 to 2011 he was president of the Société française de musicologie.

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