Editor at Large Clive Paget went to Florida to meet the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra chief, new music fan and trusted friend of Bernstein who founded a far-sighted musical academy at Miami Beach.
What was the first Debussy you studied and what has been your personal journey with his music over the years? I remember playing one of his early works, Rêverie, a little syrupy for die-hard Debussy fans but nonetheless with its own undeniable charm. I’d had barely a year of piano lessons at that point and had the impression I was floating in the clouds with the gentle lilting of the left hand. I took a liking to his music right away and my piano teacher at the Conservatoire de Toulouse encouraged me to play and listen to more Debussy. At home my go-to recording was the complete piano works by Gieseking, but I also listened to orchestral works like La Mer and Les Nocturnes. Debussy was the soundtrack of my childhood and adolescence, along with Ravel, Stravinsky, and Falla. Early on I started playing the Préludes, Images, some of the Etudes, and the sonatas for violin and cello. I’ve never stopped exploring the mystery of his music, delving deeper into his late style, as in the Etudes, Jeux, En blanc et noir… But I love his oeuvre as a whole, including the early works and the irresistible Arabesques and the