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Most important French composer around 1900, whose music, primarily characterized by its sound, exhibits profound innovations. His oeuvre bears a close relationship to Symbolism.
- 1862 Born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye on August 22.
- 1872–84 Studies at the Conservatoire de Paris. During this time, he travels with the family of Nadezhda von Meck to Switzerland, Italy, Vienna, and Russia, where he becomes acquainted with Russian and Gypsy music.
- 1884 Wins the Prix de Rome with his cantata “L’Enfant prodigue.” Thereafter resides in Rome until 1887.
- 1887–89 Songs, “Cinq Poèmes de Baudelaire.”
- 1888/89 Visit to the Bayreuth Festival; criticism of Wagner.
- 1889 Exposition universelle (World Exposition) in Paris, where he learns about East Asian music, which influences his style.
- 1890 Connection to Mallarmé and his circle.
- 1891/1903 Series of songs, “Fêtes galantes,” after Verlaine.
- 1891–94 Orchestral work “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune” (“Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun”) with arabesque-like melodies.
- 1897–99 Nocturnes for orchestra and women’s voices.
- 1901 Beginning of his activity as a music critic.
- 1902 Performance of the opera “Pelléas et Mélisande” after the Symbolist drama by Maeterlinck, which despite criticism spells his breakthrough.
- 1903–05 Orchestral work “La Mer” uses symphonic principles and “Impressionist” tonal language.
- 1905–07 Books one and two of “Images” for piano.
- 1906–08 “Children’s Corner,” children’s pieces for piano.
- 1909–10/11–1913 Books one and two of the “Préludes” for piano; the programmatic titles of these character pieces, some of which are quite esoteric, are listed at the end of each one.
- 1913 Songs “Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé.”
- 1915–17 Chamber music sonatas, drawing from the French tradition of the eighteenth century.
- 1918 Death in Paris on March 25.
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