Saint-Saëns, d'Indy, Debussy, and the Reconstruction of the Past in fin-de-siècle France
Bailey, Walter B.
Master of Music
My thesis explores the highly individual reconstruction of the past in the works of Camille Saint-Saëns, Vincent d’Indy, and Claude Debussy in the context of the larger retrospective impulse in fin-de-siècle France. Specifically, it investigates the appropriation and incorporation of the “old” into the “new,” which results not only from artistic need, but also from a compulsion to justify the present by way of the past. Chapter one shows Saint-Saëns’s and d’Indy’s different approaches to restoring early repertoire stemming from their divergent aesthetic views of the relationship between music and history. Chapter two illustrates Debussy’s attempt to forge a connection with Rameau and thereby defend his French identity not by imitating Rameau’s music but by constructing a French image of Rameau. The past was never far from the creative process, and it served as an important instrument in the definition and defense of their musical styles and artistic identities.