The Sonata for Cello and Piano (1915) was one of the last three sonatas written by Claude Debussy (1862–1918). When Debussy composed the sonata, France was involved in World War I and Debussy was influenced by political dogmas that sought to advance nationalism as well as the use of French traditions in musical compositions. By discussing the political impact of World War I on French music, this paper will place the Sonata in a context that strengthens the understanding of the work.
Debussy, who participated in the political project of seeking out tradition as the protector of French culture, also presents his understanding of what French tradition is in this sonata. An analytical description of the structure, thematic materials, harmonies and intervallic relationships of the Sonata reveals Debussy’s approach of combining the elements that he observed from his French predecessors, as well as his own innovations in the work as he negotiated musical world that was controlled by political dogma