1 page. Folio. Dated February 1, 1914. In blue ink on gray laid paper. In French, with translation.
13 lines of text in Debussy's characteristic small, neat script.
Debussy writes that he has been ill for the past 3 months and apologizes for not attending to business matters more promptly:
"If you have not seen me for almost three months, it is because I have been ill during that time and that I am, moreover hardly restored to health. Naturally, that has not exactly put my business in order! I ask you, therefore, to be patient a little longer regarding the settlement of my bill, and to use your influence with the [?]Lameière company to that effect." The composer hopes to see his correspondent within a week.
Slightly worn; creased at folds; edges slightly browned; short splits to vertical folds; small rectangular area to blank lower portion of leaf faded.
Bertault was a French financier to whom Debussy had turned for loans since 1909; a number of letters from the composer to Bertault are documented.
Even though Debussy had apparently been somewhat indisposed since November of the previous year, 1913 had been an important year for him. Two of his major works were first performed: Gigues, the first part of the Images for orchestra, at the Concerts Colonne, and the ballet Jeux, with choreography by Nijinsky, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées; in addition, Pelléas received its 100th performance at the Opéra-Comique in Paris.
By the time of the present letter, February 1914, Debussy was in considerable debt and quite distraught. "Monetary pressures were always rather acute, and during these months (late 1913-early 1914) we find their traces yet again in the numerous despairing notes sent to 'fat Bertault.' " Lesure & Rolf, p. 311. It was also at this time that Debussy was working on the proofs of his memoir, "Monsieur Croche, antidilettante," conducting in Rome, Amsterdam, and The Hague, and travelling to Brussels and London, primarily to support his family.
1914 also proved to be something of a turning point for the composer relative to his musical aesthetics: "Once he was famous, the composer was receptive to the ideas spread by writers in favour of a return to the classics, which led him to extol the values of a national tradition (Rameau) and to choose to set poems by Charles d’Orléans and Tristan Lhermite. The decisive turning-point in his aesthetic evolution came between Pelléas and La mer: he no longer referred to poets or visual artists in his correspondence as ideals on which to model himself or his music. He rejected the Fauves and made gentle fun of the production style of the Ballets Russes. Eventually he came close even to rejecting the stimulus of other music, writing early in 1914: ‘There comes a moment in life when one wants to concentrate, and now I’ve made a resolution to listen to as little music as possible.’" François Lesure and Roy Howat in Grove Music Online.
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