Claude Debussy

Biography

Born: 1862   Died: 1918   Country: France   Period: Romantic
Claude Debussy (born Achille-Claude Debussy) was among the most influential composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His mature compositions, distinctive and appealing, combined modernism and sensuality so successfully that their sheer beauty often obscures their technical innovation. Debussy is considered the founder and leading exponent of musical Impressionism (although he resisted the label), and his adoption of Read more non-traditional scales and tonal structures was paradigmatic for many composers who followed.

The son of a shopkeeper and a seamstress, Debussy began piano studies at the Paris Conservatory at the age of 11. While a student there, he encountered the wealthy Nadezhda von Meck (most famous as Tchaikovsky's patroness), who employed him as a music teacher to her children; through travel, concerts and acquaintances, she provided him with a wealth of musical experience. Most importantly, she exposed the young Debussy to the works of Russian composers, such as Borodin and Mussorgsky, who would remain important influences on his music.

Debussy began composition studies in 1880, and in 1884 he won the prestigious Prix de Rome with his cantata L'enfant prodigue. This prize financed two years of further study in Rome -- years that proved to be creatively frustrating. However, the period immediately following was fertile for the young composer; trips to Bayreuth and the Paris World Exhibition (1889) established, respectively, his determination to move away from the influence of Richard Wagner, and his interest in the music of Eastern cultures.

After a relatively bohemian period, during which Debussy formed friendships with many leading Parisian writers and musicians (not least of which were Mallarmé, Satie, and Chausson), the year 1894 saw the enormously successful premiere of his Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) -- a truly revolutionary work that brought his mature compositional voice into focus. His seminal opera Pelléas et Mélisande, completed the next year, would become a sensation at its first performance in 1902. The impact of those two works earned Debussy widespread recognition (as well as frequent attacks from critics, who failed to appreciate his forward-looking style), and over the first decade of the twentieth century he established himself as the leading figure in French music -- so much so that the term "Debussysme" ("Debussyism"), used both positively and pejoratively, became fashionable in Paris. Debussy spent his remaining healthy years immersed in French musical society, writing as a critic, composing, and performing his own works internationally. He succumbed to colon cancer in 1918, having also suffered a deep depression brought on by the onset of World War I.

Debussy's personal life was punctuated by unfortunate incidents, most famously the attempted suicide of his first wife, Lilly Texier, whom he abandoned for the singer Emma Bardac. However, his subsequent marriage to Bardac, and their daughter Claude-Emma, whom they called "Chouchou" and who became the dedicatee of the composer's Children's Corner piano suite, provided the middle-aged Debussy with great personal joys.

Debussy wrote successfully in most every genre, adapting his distinctive compositional language to the demands of each. His orchestral works, of which Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune and La mer (The Sea, 1905) are most familiar, established him as a master of instrumental color and texture. It is this attention to tone color -- his layering of sound upon sound so that they blend to form a greater, evocative whole -- that linked Debussy in the public mind to the Impressionist painters.

His works for solo piano, particularly his collections of Préludes and Etudes, which have remained staples of the repertoire since their composition, bring into relief his assimilation of elements from both Eastern cultures and antiquity -- especially pentatonicism (the use of five-note scales), modality (the use of scales from ancient Greece and the medieval church), parallelism (the parallel movement of chords and lines), and the whole-tone scale (formed by dividing the octave into six equal intervals).

Pelléas et Mélisande and his collections of songs for solo voice establish the strength of his connection to French literature and poetry, especially the symbolist writers, and stand as some of the most understatedly expressive works in the repertory. The writings of Mallarmé, Maeterlinck, Baudelaire, and his childhood friend Paul Verlaine appear prominently among his chosen texts and joined symbiotically with the composer's own unique moods and forms of expression. Read less

Debussy: Arabesques, Clair de Lune, Golliwogg's Cakewalk / Ronan O'Hora
Release Date: 06/14/2011   Label: Royal Philharmonic Masterworks  
Catalog: 29040   Number of Discs: 1
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Gershwin, Ravel, Debussy / O'Riley, Wordsworth, Royal PO
Release Date: 08/11/2009   Label: Royal Philharmonic Masterworks  
Catalog: 28050   Number of Discs: 1
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Les Amis - Debussy, Caplet / Elizabeth Hainen
Release Date: 11/12/2013   Label: Avie  
Catalog: 2285   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: Pelleas Et Melisande / Oelze, Croft, Tomlinson
Release Date: 07/26/2005   Label: Kultur Video  
Catalog: 3117   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: La Mer, Jeux, Prelude A L'apres Midi D'un Faune / Gergiev, LSO
Release Date: 04/12/2011   Label: Lso Live  
Catalog: 692   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Rêverie

Browse 26-50 of 152 Available Recordings
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  • 26.
    Debussy: Complete Works For Piano
    Label: Regis   Catalog: 4010 Release Date: 03/13/2012   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
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  • 27.
    Debussy: The Solo Piano Works / Noriko Ogawa
    Label: Bis   Catalog: 1955 Release Date: 01/31/2012   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Noriko Ogawa
    Conductor:  Lan Shui
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
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  • 28.
    Moods
    Label: Analekta   Catalog: 96079 Release Date: 01/31/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Federico Mompou,  Jules Massenet,  John Duarte,  Traditional  ... 
    Performer:  Louise Bessette,  James Ehnes,  Rémi Boucher,  Louise-Andrée Baril  ... 
    Conductor:  Yoav Talmi,  Gilbert Patenaude,  George Hanson,  Jeanne Lamon
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Pieta,  Ensemble Caprice
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  • 29.
    Hsia-jung Chang Plays Debussy
    Label: Mandala Studio   Catalog: 5637874563 Release Date: 12/13/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Hsia-Jung Chang
    CD: $23.99
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  • 30.
    Debussy: Oeuvres Pour Piano / Albert Ferber
    Label: Virgin Classics   Catalog: 0833802 Release Date: 11/15/2011   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Albert Ferber
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  • 31.
    Debussy: Piano Works / Mark Swartzentruber
    Label: Solo Records   Catalog: 5 Release Date: 10/11/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Mark Swartzentruber
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  • 32.
    The Original Jacket Collection - Julian Bream
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 731621 Release Date: 10/04/2011   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Girolamo Frescobaldi,  Mateo Pérez de Albeniz,  Domenico Scarlatti,  Domenico Cimarosa  ... 
    Performer:  Julian Bream,  John Williams,  George Malcolm,  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Julian Bream Consort
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  • 33.
    Piano Dreams / Avis Romm
    Label: Opening Day   Catalog: 7411 Release Date: 08/16/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Frédéric Chopin,  Robert Schumann,  Johann Sebastian Bach  ... 
    Performer:  Avis Romm
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  • 34.
    Debussy: Piano Music Vol 5 / Noriko Ogawa
    Label: Bis   Catalog: 1405 Release Date: 06/28/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Noriko Ogawa
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  • 35.
    Debussy: Arabesques, Clair de Lune, Golliwogg's Cakewalk / Ronan O'Hora
    Label: Royal Philharmonic Masterworks   Catalog: 29040 Release Date: 06/14/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Ronan O'Hora
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  • 36.
    John Williams - The Guitarist
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 88082 Release Date: 05/31/2011   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Isaac Albeniz,  Agustín Barrios Mangoré,  Silvius Leopold Weiss  ... 
    Performer:  John Williams,  Julian Bream
    Conductor:  William Goodchild,  János Rolla,  Richard Tognetti,  Louis Frémaux
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra,  Australian Chamber Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra
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  • 37.
    Debussy: Complete Solo Piano Music / Larissa Dedova
    Label: Centaur Records   Catalog: 3094/7 Release Date: 05/24/2011   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Larissa Dedova
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  • 38.
    Reverie / Katie Mahan
    Label: Cd Baby   Catalog: 5637770447 Release Date: 04/26/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Katie Mahan
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  • 39.
    Label: Northquest   Catalog: 48029 Release Date: 10/12/2010   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Frédéric Chopin,  Richard Wagner,  Johann Pachelbel  ... 
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  • 40.
    Label: Northquest   Catalog: 315001 Release Date: 10/12/2010   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Antonio Vivaldi,  Frédéric Chopin,  Claude Debussy,  Camille Saint-Saëns  ... 
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  • 41.
    Piano Night Pieces
    Label: Music Agents   Catalog: 505 Release Date: 09/28/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Field,  Claude Debussy,  Robert Schumann,  Frédéric Chopin  ... 
    Performer:  Micaela Gelius
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  • 42.
    Pierre Fournier - The Aristocrat Of Cellists
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 29539 Release Date: 09/14/2010   Number of Discs: 7
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy,  Gabriel Fauré  ... 
    Performer:  Pierre Fournier,  Ernest Lush,  Tasso Janopoulo,  Gerald Moore  ... 
    Conductor:  Rafael Kubelik,  Eugène Bigot,  Walter Susskind,  Alceo Galliera  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Lamoureux Concerts Association Orchestra
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  • 43.
    50 Best Piano
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 57540 Release Date: 06/29/2010   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Franz Liszt,  Claude Debussy,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Mikhail Pletnev,  André Watts,  Stanislav Bunin,  Moura Lympany  ... 
    Conductor:  Wayne Marshall,  Leonard Bernstein,  Jerzy Maksymiuk,  David Zinman  ... 
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  • 44.
    Reverie
    Label: Hbr   Catalog: 5637618609 Release Date: 04/06/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Marcel Tournier,  Claude Debussy,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Carlos Salzedo  ... 
    Performer:  Mindy Cutcher
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  • 45.
    Easy Listening Piano Classics - Debussy And Ravel
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8578077-78 Release Date: 02/23/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  François-Joël Thiollier,  Yin Cheng-Zong
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  • 46.
    Nocturne / Carmen Dragon, Hollywood Bowl SO
    Label: Emi Studio   Catalog: 63664 Release Date: 12/01/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Richard Wagner,  Claude Debussy,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Conductor:  Carmen Dragon
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra
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  • 47.
    Debussy: L'oeuvre Complete Pour Piano / Jean Boguet
    Label: Tudor Records   Catalog: 731-34 Release Date: 06/26/2009   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Jean Boguet
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  • 48.
    Intimate Classics
    Label: Avalon Records   Catalog: 41337 Release Date: 06/01/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Pachelbel,  Donald Quan,  Erik Satie,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Donald Quan,  Rob Piltch
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  • 49.
    Label: Sally Fletcher   Catalog: 5637320925 Release Date: 05/05/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Giacomo Puccini,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Sergei Rachmaninov  ... 
    Performer:  Sally Fletcher
    CD: $18.99
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  • 50.
    Icon - Walter Gieseking - Poet Of The Keyboard
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 65081 Release Date: 04/21/2009   Number of Discs: 8
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy,  Edvard Grieg,  César Franck  ... 
    Performer:  Walter Gieseking,  Bernard Walton,  Sidney Sutcliffe,  Cecil James  ... 
    Conductor:  Kurt Schröder,  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hessian Radio Orchestra Frankfurt,  Philharmonia Orchestra
    On sale! $54.99
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