Claude Debussy/Emily Beynon

Photo: Eduardus Lee

  • Claude Debussy - Biography
  • Emily Beynon - Biography
  • Works

Achille-Claude Debussy (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) was a French composer. He was seen, during his lifetime and afterwards, as the first Impressionist composer, although he vigorously rejected the term. He was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Born to a family of modest means and little cultural involvement, Debussy showed enough musical talent to be admitted at the age of ten to France’s leading music college, the Conservatoire de Paris. He originally studied the piano, but found his vocation in innovative composition, despite the disapproval of the Conservatoire’s conservative professors. He took many years to develop his mature style, and was nearly 40 before achieving international fame in 1902 with the only opera he completed, Pelléas et Mélisande.

Debussy’s orchestral works include Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1894), Nocturnes (1897–99) and Images (1905–1912). His music was to a considerable extent a reaction against Wagner and the German musical tradition. He regarded the classical symphony as obsolete and sought an alternative in his “symphonic sketches”, La mer (1903–1905). His piano works include two books of Préludes and two of Études. Throughout his career he wrote mélodies based on a wide variety of poetry, including his own. He was greatly influenced by the Symbolist poetic movement of the later 19th century. A small number of works, including the early La Damoiselle élue and the late Le Martyre de saint Sébastien have important parts for chorus. In his final years he focused on chamber music, completing three of a planned six sonatas for different combinations of instruments.

With early influences including Russian and far-eastern music, Debussy developed his own style in the use of harmony and orchestral colouring, derided, and unsuccessfully resisted, by much of the musical establishment of the day. His works have strongly influenced a wide range of composers, including Béla Bartók, Olivier Messiaen, George Benjamin and the jazz pianist and composer Bill Evans. Debussy’s life was cut short by cancer. He died at his home in Paris at the age of 55 after a composing career of a little more than 30 years.

Emily Beynon is principal flute of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam.

Born in Wales, Emily Beynon began her flute studies as a junior at the Royal College of Music with Margaret Ogonovsky and then went on to study with William Bennett at the Royal Academy and with Alain Marion in Paris. In 2002 she was made a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music.

Equally at home in front of the orchestra as in its midst, Emily has performed as concerto soloist with, amongst others, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC Orchestras, NHK Symphony, the Vienna, Prague, Netherlands and English Chamber Orchestras and the Academy of St.Martin-in-the-Fields.

As a chamber musician she works regularly with her sister, the harpist, Catherine Beynon and the pianist Andrew West. Emily has made guest appearances with the Nash Ensemble, Steven Isserlis, Lukas Hagen, Daishin Kashimoto, Jean-Yves Tibaudet, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, the Kungsbacka Trio and Skampa and Brodsky Quartets.

She is frequently heard on BBC radio and Classic FM, and has featured in several television documentaries for Thames, the BBC and AVRO (Netherlands).

Emily is an enthusiastic protagonist of new music and has had many new works written for her by some of the UK’s leading composers: John Woolrich, Sally Beamish, Jonathan Dove, Errollyn Wallen and Roxanna Panufnik.

A passionate and dedicated teacher, Emily is regularly invited to give masterclasses all over the world. In 2009, together with business woman (and amateur flautist), Suzanne Wolff, Emily set up the Netherlands Flute Academy.

Website: www.emilybeynon.com