School of Music Program Book 1949-1950 Page: 64
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What Critics Thought of "L'Enfant" in 1884
Since this work won the "Prix De Rome" in 1884 when the composer was
21 years old, it will be of interest to Debussy admirers to be aware of the
following passages taken from the work of Lion Vallas', "Debussy, Life and
Charles Darcours, one of the judges and eminant critic of the music pub-
lication, "Figaro" writes prophetically.
"This year's competition has brought to light a young musician of talent,
a student who does not pass his colleagues in actual attainment, but who proves
in the very first bars of his composition that he is not one of the herd. This is
worth something in an age when everyone has talent and no one individuality.
It is the work of a musical dreamer and has the dreamers faults. Indefinate
tonality, vocal parts written without attention to compass and timbre, frequent
outbursts of violence, over emphasized declamation. It is now up to the young
musician to find his own path amidst the enthusiasms and antagonism he is
certain to arouse."
What Debussy Thought of His Work
What chiefly strikes one today, on reading or listening to this composi-
tion, (written in 25 days) is the Massanet like character of the melody, then
the fashion amongst the pupils of the Paris Conservatoire. Said Debussy, "I
deliberately imitated the charming style of the composer of "Manon" in order
to win the favor of the adjudicators, the majority of whom are not musicians
anyway. I had been warned that the harmonic tricks I usually indulged in
would horrify the institute. I think the composition theatrical, amateurish and
boring. It is a hybird form that partakes clumsily of all that is commonplace
in the opera or in the choral symphony. It is an invention of the institute and
the umpires are all members of the institute. Bourguereau and Massanet ad-
judicate the various matches indescriminately, whether the games be played
in music, sculpture, architecture. It is queer that no one has considered putting
a dancer on the committee since terpsichore was not the least among the nine
muses, yet, they expect one to be full of ideas and inspiration at a given time
of the year. If you are not in form that particular month, so much the worse
for you. It is a purely arbitrary affair without any significance as regards
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North Texas State College. School of Music. School of Music Program Book 1949-1950, book, 1950; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc139506/m1/66/: accessed May 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Music Library.