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"What rules do you follow?"
...asked Claude Debussy’s music teacher. “Pleasure,” he replied. But pleasure can unlock whole worlds. 100 years after his death, join Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and the CBSO as they set out in search of the wonder, the power and the sheer beauty of music’s quietest revolutionary.

We'll journey through sensual pleasures and sacred ecstasies, children’s games and bold new sounds, culminating in a concert performance of Debussy’s fairytale opera Pelléas et Mélisande. It’s an adventure that’ll involve our entire musical family, plus musical groups from across the whole city.


Save money on individual ticket prices by buying a festival pass for £50, to one or both weekends. Plus, top up your pass by just £5 to include even more Debussy - chamber music concerts with CBSO Musicians at our home, CBSO Centre.

Weekend Passes are exempt from the per ticket commission. Please note that Debussy Festival concerts and events are not available as part of a CBSO Concert Package.

The Debussy Festival has been made possible through the generous support of Barry and Frances Kirkham, Jerry Sykes and HSBC.

Mid Page Opening Fest Light.

Friday 16 March, 3pm - Saturday 17 March, 8pm
Birmingham New Street Station

On 16-17 March, the first weekend of the festival, the CBSO will be bringing a Debussy Pianoathon to New Street Station concourse. A Grand Piano will be placed between the departure boards for the general public to play and enjoy the music of Claude Debussy. Our aim is to fill Street station with (nearly!) round the clock Piano playing, paying homage to Debussy and are offering performance slots over the weekend for pianists across the city and beyond.

Friday 16 March, 8pm
CBSO Centre, Birmingham

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire musicians perform two intricately inventive works for the piano: Images books 1 and 2 frame Debussy’s Proses Lyriques, which includes soprano voice. Included in Weekend Pass Extra.

Friday 16 March, 9.30pm
CBSO Centre, Birmingham

This late-night concert with Conservatoire musicians includes Debussy’s famous Clair de Lune, as a solo piano piece and in two different song settings, plus more vocal and piano music. Included in Weekend Pass Extra.

Saturday 17 March, 3.30pm
Recital Hall, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Exploring the rich vein of repertoire inspired by this theme; Debussy’s virtuosic piano piece L’isle joyeuse, pairing of song and prelude and the magnificent Le Jet d’Eau from the Baudelaire songs.

Sunday 18 March, 11am
Recital Hall, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

A lecture by Richard Langham Smith developing
connections with paintings and poetry, illustrated
with performances.

Passionate Debussy

Saturday 17 March 2018, 1pm
CBSO Centre, Birmingham

Debussy was full of surprises: who’d have expected him to write songs for an erotic revue?
Included in Weekend Pass Extra.

Learn more and book

Mid Page W1 Centrepieces.

Sensual Debussy

Saturday 17 March 2018, 7pm
Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla launches our centenary celebration with a concert devoted to Debussy, his followers and his influences at their most deliriously romantic, beginning with the piece that changed everything: the exquisite Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune.

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Children's Corner

Sunday 18 March 2018, 2pm
Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Mirga, Catherine Arlidge and the whole CBSO show how Debussy used music to tell wonderful stories. You’ll hear incredible sounds, and see some beautiful pictures too. In fact, it’ll be a treat whatever your age – as long as you’re ready to use your imagination!

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Birmingham Contemporary Music Group

Debussy's Legacy

Sunday 18 March 2018, 4pm
Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Debussy’s compositions changed music for ever – preparing the ground for trailblazing twentieth century composers. Indeed it was Boulez who first drew attention to how modern Debussy’s compositions are. And Tristan Murail includes quotes from Debussy’s great works.

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Modern Debussy

Sunday 18 March 2018, 6pm
Symphony Hall, Birmingham

“A century of aeroplanes deserves its own music” said Debussy. “As there are no precedents, I must create anew.” And that’s exactly what he did. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts music that spans acentury: Stravinsky’s striking homage to Debussy, Takemitsu's Debussy-inspired Green, and Debussy’s elusive Jeux. Because a revolution is no less radical for being quiet.

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Mid Page More Debussy Light.

Thursday 22 March, 6.30pm
The Electric Cinema

A special screening of the Ken Russell film, adapted for the BBC and part of his trio of The Great Composers series. Co-written by a young Melvyn Bragg this ambitious work about the composer's life is a film within a film, with Vladek Sheybal starring as a Director who wants to make a movie about Claude Debussy, played by Oliver Reed. The film will be introduced and accompanied with a post-show talk with John Hill, Professor of Media at Royal Holloway, University of London. John was the Principal Investigator on a four year research project on The History of Forgotten Television Drama in the UK and is the co-editor of a special issue of the Journal of British Cinema and Television on the work of the director Ken Russell.

To book, visit theelectric.co.uk.This screening is in partnership with The History of Forgotten Television Drama in the UK.

Friday 23 March, 7.30pm
Symphony Hall, Birmingham

A ravishing all-French recital with the "beautiful, gleaming voice" of the charismatic young Franco-Nigerian soprano Omo Bello.

Saturday 24 March, 11am
Recital Hall, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire musicians present an entertaining programme based on different meditations on the word miniature. With some early and very short Debussy songs, including a recently resurrected teenage piece, Jane.

Saturday 24 March, 2pm
Recital Hall, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

An exploration of Spanish inflected French music performed by Conservatoire musicians. Includes Debussy’s Estampes for solo piano and La Puerto del Vino, a Prelude inspired by a postcard from Manuel de Falla.

Saturday 24 March, 4.30pm
Ikon Gallery, Birmingham

Sorry, this event has now SOLD OUT

A fascinating talk with music critic and writer Paul Griffiths OBE who will introduce an anthology of Debussy’s articles, interviews and letters, with some focus on the works to come, and some on those that will already have been heard. Free admission, but booking essential via Ikon website or 0121 248 0711. Online booking closes 4pm 24 March.

Enchanting Debussy

Sunday 25 March 2018, 11.30am
CBSO Centre, Birmingham

In the darkest hours of the First World War, Claude Debussy turned back to the baroque – and discovered a lost domain of enchantment and beauty.
Included in Weekend Pass Extra.

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Mid Page W2 Centrepieces.

Sacred Debussy

Saturday 24 March 2018, 7pm
Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Debussy said that “I have made mysterious Nature my religion”. But a very personal spirituality illuminates everything he wrote; an enduring inspiration to his disciple Messiaen and proof that profundity and passion can go hand in hand...

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Exotic Debussy

Sunday 25 March 2018, 1.30pm
Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Debussy was one of the first western composers to appreciate music from other cultures – and what he heard opened up new realms of sonic enchantment. Today’s concert travels from an imagined China to modern Japan.

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Birmingham Contemporary Music Group

Tombeau de Debussy

Sunday 25 March 2018, 4pm
Symphony Hall, Birmingham

In 1920, ten leading composers put pencil to paper for a moving homage to Debussy. Today, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group performs five tributes from Tombeau de Claude Debussy interwoven with four specially-commissioned new works.

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Natural Debussy

Sunday 25 March 2018, 6pm
Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Debussy’s La mer is one of the most beautiful musical portraits ever painted of the sea in all its moods – you’d never guess that he got his inspiration from a hotel in Eastbourne! But everything about nature fired his imagination. What better way to end our festival of Debussy?

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The Festival at a Glance
Debussy and Imagery - 16 March
Debussy by Night - 16 March
Passionate Debussy - 17 March
Debussy and Water - 17 March
Sensual Debussy - 17 March
Debussy, Watteau and the Fêtes Galantes - 18 March
Children's Corner - 18 March
Debussy's Legacy - 18 March
Modern Debussy - 18 March
Omo Bello - La Belle Époque - 23 March
Debussy the Miniaturist - 24 March
Debussy in Spain - 24 March
Debussy in his Own Words - 24 March
Sacred Debussy - 24 March
Enchanting Debussy - 25 March
Exotic Debussy - 25 March
Tombeau de Debussy - 25 March
Natural Debussy - 25 March
Pelléas et Mélisande
Saturday 23 June 2018, 5pm
Sold separately