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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
Songs Of Debussy And Fauré / Benita Valente, Lydia Artymiw
Release Date: 01/30/1996   Label: Centaur Records  
Catalog: 2220   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: Etudes, Estampes / Sally Pinkas
Release Date: 03/22/1994   Label: Centaur Records  
Catalog: 2169   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: Preludes Book 1, Images, Etc / Schepkin
Release Date: 10/21/2003   Label: Centaur Records  
Catalog: 2644   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy, Gershwin, Piazzolla, Etc / Andrew Zohn
Release Date: 07/26/2005   Label: Centaur Records  
Catalog: 2740   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy, Shostakovich, Etc / Leung, Martinu Po
Release Date: 07/25/2006   Label: Centaur Records  
Catalog: 2799   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: La mer

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Browse 1-25 of 52 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Stravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps - Debussy: La Mer / Zweden, New York Philharmonic
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002969002 Release Date: 02/22/2019   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky,  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Jaap van Zweden
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
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  • 2.
    Debussy: La Mer, Le Martyre de saint Sebastien / Heras-Casado, Philharmonia Orchestra
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 902310 Release Date: 07/06/2018   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Pablo Heras-Casado
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
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  • 3.
    Debussy: Preludes Book 2 & La Mer / Melnikov
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 902302 Release Date: 06/29/2018   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Alexander Melnikov,  Olga Pashchenko
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  • 4.
    Esa-Pekka Salonen: The Complete Sony Recordings
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 88985471842 Release Date: 05/04/2018   Number of Discs: 61
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Gustav Mahler,  Béla Bartók,  Anton Bruckner  ... 
    Performer:  Yefim Bronfman,  Alexys Schwartz,  Joshua Bell,  Phyllis Bryn-Julson  ... 
    Conductor:  Esa-Pekka Salonen
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra,  Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Swedish Radio Chorus  ... 
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  • 5.
    Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring - Debussy: La Mer / Raat
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8573576 Release Date: 01/12/2018   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Igor Stravinsky
    Performer:  Ralph van Raat
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  • 6.
    Debussy: The Complete Works
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 565660 Release Date: 01/05/2018   Number of Discs: 33
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Robert Schumann,  Joachim Raff,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky  ... 
    Performer:  Aldo Ciccolini,  Cécile Ousset,  Michel Béroff,  Samson François  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner,  François-Xavier Roth,  Armin Jordan,  Jean Martinon  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quatuor Ebène,  Nash Ensemble,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields  ... 
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  • 7.
    Toscanini: The Essential Recordings
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 537604 Release Date: 03/10/2017   Number of Discs: 20
    Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Edna Phillips,  Jon Garrison,  Gladys Swarthout,  Nicola Moscona  ... 
    Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra,  New York Philharmonic,  Philadelphia Orchestra
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  • 8.
    Debussy: La Mer, Nocturnes... / Fruhbeck de Burgos
    Label: Musical Concepts   Catalog: 1277 Release Date: 01/20/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 9.
    Lorin Maazel: The Cleveland Years - Complete Recordings
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002217602 Release Date: 11/10/2014   Number of Discs: 19
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Hector Berlioz,  Mikhail Glinka  ... 
    Performer:  Kenneth Riegel,  Lynn Harrell,  Pascal Rogé,  Ivan Davis
    Conductor:  Lorin Maazel,  Antal Doráti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra,  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
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  • 10.
    Leonard Bernstein Collection Vol 1 [59 CDs & 1 DVD]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 2027800 Release Date: 04/22/2014   Number of Discs: 60
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms,  Leonard Bernstein,  Benjamin Britten  ... 
    Performer:  René Kollo,  Dame Gwyneth Jones,  Kurt Moll,  Hanna Schwarz  ... 
    Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein,  Michael Tilson Thomas,  Kent Nagano
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Concert Choir,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra  ... 
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  • 11.
    Ernest Ansermet - French Music
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 4807898 Release Date: 11/12/2013   Number of Discs: 32
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Hector Berlioz  ... 
    Performer:  Robert Gugolz,  Marie-Luise de Montmollin,  Nancy Waugh,  Suzanne Danco  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Union Chorale de la Tour-de-Peilz,  Geneva Motet Choir  ... 
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  • 12.
    Bernard Haitink - The Philips Years
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001903502 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 20
    Composer:  Béla Bartók,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Performer:  Henryk Szeryng,  Herman Krebbers,  Menahem Pressler,  Isidore Cohen  ... 
    Conductor:  Bernard Haitink
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Beaux Arts Trio  ... 
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  • 13.
    Icon - Arturo Toscanini: The HMV Recordings
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 233342 Release Date: 02/05/2013   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Gioachino Rossini,  Claude Debussy,  Sir Edward Elgar  ... 
    Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
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  • 14.
    Debussy: La Mer; Images; Prelude A L'apres-midi D'un Faune
    Label: Zig Zag   Catalog: 313 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Jos van Immerseel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Anima Eterna Orchestra
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  • 15.
    Carl Schuricht Collection II - Historical Recordings 1951-1966
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 93292 Release Date: 10/30/2012   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Franz Schubert,  Johannes Brahms,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Conductor:  Carl Schuricht
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
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  • 16.
    Debussy: La Mer; Nocturnes / Barenboim, Orchestre De Paris
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001739602 Release Date: 10/09/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
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  • 17.
    Debussy: Orchestral Works / Deneve, Royal Scottish National Orchestra
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 5102 Release Date: 05/29/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Stéphane Denève
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra,  Women Of The Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus
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  • 18.
    Debussy: La Mer, Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un Faune, Images / Gatti, Orchestre National de France
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 797400 Release Date: 05/01/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Daniele Gatti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
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  • 19.
    The Debussy Edition [18-CD Set]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001676372 Release Date: 05/01/2012   Number of Discs: 18
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Franklin Cohen,  Jean-Rodolphe Kars,  Vera Badings,  Krystian Zimerman  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Boulez,  Sir Alexander Gibson,  Bernard Haitink,  Eduard van Beinum  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra Chorus,  London Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    Recommendation
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  • 20.
    Icon - Guido Cantelli: Fiery Angel Of The Podium
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog:  6790432 Release Date: 03/13/2012   Number of Discs: 9
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Franz Schubert,  César Franck  ... 
    Performer:  Dennis Brain
    Conductor:  Guido Cantelli
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  NBC Symphony Orchestra,  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra  ... 
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  • 21.
    Debussy: Complete Orchestral Works / Jun Markl, Orchestre National De Lyon
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8509002 Release Date: 02/28/2012   Number of Discs: 9
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Jean-Yves Thibaudet,  Paul Meyer,  Alexandre Doisy,  Emmanuel Ceysson
    Conductor:  Jun Märkl
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon National Orchestra,  Leipzig Radio Chorus
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  • 22.
    Mahler: Symphony No. 3; Debussy: La Mer / Mitropoulos, Cologne Rso
    Label: Ica Classics   Catalog: 5021 Release Date: 05/31/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Gustav Mahler,  Spoken Word
    Performer:  Dimitri Mitropoulos
    Conductor:  Dimitri Mitropoulos
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  • 23.
    Debussy: La Mer, Jeux, Prelude a l'apres midi d'un faune / Gergiev, LSO
    Label: Lso Live   Catalog: 692 Release Date: 04/12/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 24.
    Debussy: La Mer, Prelude a l'Apres-midi d'un Faune, Etc; Ravel: La Valse; Bolero
    Label: Apex   Catalog: 4677174 Release Date: 03/29/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel
    Performer:  Jeanne Baxtresser,  Kenneth Radnofsky
    Conductor:  Kurt Masur
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  • 25.
    Debussy: La Mer, Iberia; Ravel: Ma Mere L'oye / Munch, Boston Symphony
    Label: Ica Classics   Catalog: 5014 Release Date: 02/22/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel
    Conductor:  Charles Munch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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