The second performance of Debussy's String Quartet, given by the Ysaye Quartet on an all-Debussy program during the 1894 salon of "La Libre Esthtique" in Brussels, offers an ideal context for a critical reexamination of his musical and aesthetic affinities at this pivotal moment. In the first place, a view to the salon's other three concerts, which honored Beethoven alongside recent works by Societe Nationale composers, encourages reconsideration of Debussy's own response to the "great tradition" in the work he ironically designated "Opus 10." But at the same time, due regard to his other contemporaneous compositional obsessions, as exemplified in the works programmed alongside the Quartet, raises the question as to how such self-conscious dialogue with Classical models related to more pressing, post-Wagnerian musical negotiations. Pursuit of this question through analysis of the first movement's reconfigured sonata form ultimately suggests ways to distinguish, from amid the myriad post-Impressionist artists on view in the "Free Aesthetic" salon itself, those painters whose visual explorations most tellingly paralleled Debussy's own "games" with musical syntax and expression in the early 1890s.
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