In 1915, Debussy returned to the genre of chamber music for the first time since the String Quartet of 1893 and composed the only sonatas of his career. What draws these early and late chamber works together is that they are all cyclic in construction. While Debussy's quartet clearly bears the imprint of Céésar Franck's cyclic procedures, his sonatas engage with this tradition more cautiously. Comparing the string quartet with the sonatas elucidates Debussy's uneasy rapprochement with a style he had formerly embraced. Debussy's underplaying of the cyclic tradition was motivated by what the cyclic sonata had come to represent in the intervening years, in particular its appropriation by Franck's student Vincent d'Indy. In his teachings and publications, d'Indy promulgated a nationalistic view of the cyclic sonata, one that declared Franck and the modern French school as the only comprehending heirs of Beethoven. Reluctant to participate in this particular heritage, Debussy diverted attention from the cyclic procedures used in the sonatas by explicitly emphasizing their stylistic affiliation with the French 18th century and by implicitly aligning himself with Franck rather than with d'Indy. In this way Debussy sought to carve out a place for his sonatas within a less contentious tradition.
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