Stephen Walsh is an Emeritus Professor of Cardiff University, and was previously deputy music critic of The Observer. A well-known broadcaster, he now reviews for the website theartsdesk.com. His books include a major biography of Igor Stravinsky and a study of the Russian Five. His latest, Debussy: A Painter in Sound, was published by Faber.
Claude Debussy stands apart as a modernist – extremely popular and yet he tore up the rulebook of harmony and form, rebelling against the tyranny of the barline and heavy orchestration. Boulez described it as ‘instantaneous self-renewal’. How did he get there? His starting point was an obsession with pleasure, writes Stephen Walsh.