Debussy's Letters to Inghelbrecht

Debussy's Letters to Inghelbrecht

The Story of a Musical Friendship

Translated by Richard Miller

Edited by Margaret G. Cobb


University of Rochester Press



The first English translation of the correspondence between two composers and friends.
Désiré-Emile Inghelbrecht was a conductor and composer. His friendship with Claude Debussy began in 1911 (although they had met previously), and he soon became one of the Master's closest friends.
This book is the first publication, in the original French and in English translation, of the correspondence between these two musicians. Beginning rather formally in 1912, with the salutation "Mon cher Inghelbrecht," the correspondence soon became much more intimate, with Debussy addressing Inghelbrecht as "Mon cher ami" or "Cher Inghel."
Although Debussy had a reputation for being cold and distant and for avoiding strangers, this was just his way of maintaining his privacy. This aloofness enabled him to express in private the warmth he felt toward those few close friends whose intimacy he needed and cherished. Inghelbrecht was in the forefront of this group. Their friendship was based not only on a mutual respect for each other's talents as artists and musicians, but also on the sharing of intimate secrets and warm feelings. Inghelbrecht's wife would later write that her husband retained the mark Debussy left on him. "For him, he was a beacon, a guide. And he had the deep joy of being able, up until his last days, to bring to life with passion, with all his talent-the works of a man who had been for a few years his friend."
Margaret G. Cobb, the "doyenne of Debussy scholars," brings to life these two talented men. She enriches Richard Miller's idiomatic translation of the letters with copious notes and wonderful illustrations to illuminate a great musical friendship.

Margaret G. Cobb is also the author of The Poetic Debussy, available from the University of Rochester Press. In 2002 she was awarded the title of Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government's Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication.

An e-book version of this title is available (9781580466394), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.


May 2005
15 black and white illustrations
167 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
ISBN: 9781580461740
Format: Hardback
University of Rochester Press
BISAC BIO004000, MUS050000, LCO011000
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Table of Contents

List of Letters
List of Illustrations
D.E. Inghelbrecht: A Biography
Letters from Debussy to Inghelbrecht
Appendix A: Letter from Inghelbrecht to Debussy
Appendix B: Letters from Inghelbrecht to d'Annunzio
Appendix C: Letters from Chouchou Debussy to Inghelbrecht


A wonderful book, one that will be welcomed by everyone interested in French modernist music. The richness of the lives that unfold from the pages of these letters is engrossing, and the translation is superb. Margaret Cobb's meticulous work on Debussy has long been deeply admired by her devotees, and this book adds so much to our understanding of an enigmatic composer and of one of his close collaborators. --Carolyn Abbate (Princeton University), author of In Search of Opera and Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century.

The friendship recounted in this book is one that echoes in the legendary Debussy recordings of the 1950s and 1960s conducted by D. E. Inghelbrecht. Among the many endearing glimpses here of two strong artistic personalities is their shared love of Musorgsky and Chabrier, and a telling blend of wit with uncompromising artistic aims. This is a book to put an extra spring into our playing of Debussy. --Roy Howat, pianist, author of Debussy in Perspective: A Musical Analysis, and Editorial Board member of the Oeuvres Complètes de Claude Debussy.

Elegant and easily accessible. . . . By 1914 [the composer-conductor Inghelbrecht] had become the recipient of some of Debussy's wonderful revelations, such as the Jacques-Émile Blanche portrait showing him like "a cream cheese that has had too many late nights" [p. 47]. . . . Beautifully produced and illustrated, and should be owned by all who love Debussy. MUSIC AND LETTERS [Robert Orledge]

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