Ricardo Viñes speaks on Claude Debussy (1938)





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Uploaded on Aug 15, 2011

Ricardo Viñes (1875-1943) studied piano first at the Municipal School of Music in Barcelona and then at the Paris Conservatoire, where he made friends with Ravel. He gave many first performances of works by Debussy, Satie, Ravel, de Falla and Albéniz. His diary mentions a number of meetings with Debussy, both musical and social. Debussy dedicated his "Poissons d'Or" to him. (I posted the recording of Viñes on YouTube)

This is part of a radio talk in 1938, commemorating the 20th anniversary of Debussy's death.
I found an English translation of it in "Debussy Remembered" by Roger Nichols, but it is also not complete.

(From 2:13) "Claude Debussy was a little bit frightening, with his magnificently ugly face and his curious, clumsily sculpted overhanging forehead (rather like Verlaine's). From the shadows of this forehead, two immense, catlike eyes kept watch, casting ironic and ambiguous looks. The whole effect suggested the romantic image of a "condottiere" [Mercenary Captain] or even, if I may say so, of a proud Calabrian bandit. [...] Debussy himself was neither pompous nor austere. At times he could join himself in quite childish ways. I remember in one occasion, after dinner, we spent the whole evening, with two other guests, drawing pigs with our eyes closed, and being allowed to take the pencil off the paper only once, to make dots for the eyes! I've always regretted not keeping the hilarious drawings Debussy produced that evening. Another time I was bold enough to ask if I could play him one of his Préludes, "La Fille aux cheveux de ripolin"! [The girl with the enamelled hair] Debussy was fond enough of making fun of others, but this play on words left him most decidedly unamused."

Artwork by Odilon Redon (1840-1916), Ricardo Viñes 1903


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