English critics have a long and distinguished record of writing about Claude Debussy. To a list ranging from Martin Cooper and Edward Lockspeiser to Roger Nichols, Roy Howat and Paul Roberts one must now add Stephen Walsh, who, in the wake of his magisterial studies of Stravinsky and Mussorgsky, has published this wonderfully warm, wise and witty book about the greatest French composer of the modern era. As a comprehensive and integrated survey of Debussy’s life and work, it could hardly be bettered.
No technical expertise is required to appreciate its qualities. Walsh has enjoyed a long career as a journalist as well as holding a professorship in Cardiff, and there is no hint of fusty academicism in his fluently elegant prose. He has an enviable knack of describing music using