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
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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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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Les Amis - Debussy, Caplet / Elizabeth Hainen
Release Date: 11/12/2013   Label: Avie  
Catalog: 2285   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: 12 Etudes / Mitsuko Uchida
Release Date: 07/04/2006   Label: Philips  
Catalog: 000701102   Number of Discs: 1
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Works For Clarinet And Orchestra By Rossini, Busoni, Debussy, Nielsen / Benda
Release Date: 01/01/2008   Label: Genuin Musikproduction  
Catalog: 88128   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: La mer

Browse 176-189 of 189 Available Recordings
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  • 176.
    Debussy - Greatest Hits
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 64065 Release Date: 08/09/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Paul Crossley,  Branford Marsalis,  Philippe Entremont
    Conductor:  Michael Tilson Thomas,  Andrew Litton,  Pierre Boulez,  Eugene Ormandy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Juilliard String Quartet  ... 
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  • 177.
    Ravel - The Greatest Hits
    Label: Reference Gold   Catalog: 3608 Release Date: 04/13/1994   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Kun-Woo Paik,  Anna Lelkes,  Pamela Endsley,  Sylvia Cápová
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Denver Symphony Orchestra,  London Festival Orchestra  ... 
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  • 178.
    Debussy: Orchestral Music / Haitink, Van Beinum
    Label: Philips Duo   Catalog: 438742 Release Date: 02/15/1994   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Vera Badings,  George Pieterson
    Conductor:  Bernard Haitink,  Eduard Van Beinum
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
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  • 179.
    The Best Of Debussy
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8556663 Release Date: 02/15/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Klára Körmendi,  Péter Nagy
    Conductor:  Alexander Rahbari,  Keith Clark
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brussels Belgian Radio & TV Philharmonic Orchestra,  Kodály String Quartet,  Bratislava Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
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  • 180.
    Guido Cantelli - The Debussy Recordings / Philharmonia
    Label: Testament   Catalog: 1011 Release Date: 10/27/1993   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Guido Cantelli
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
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  • 181.
    Debussy: La Mer, Etc / Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra
    Label: Sony Classical Essential Classics   Catalog: 53256 Release Date: 10/19/1993   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Eugene Ormandy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra
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  • 182.
    A Hi-fi Spectacular - Saint-saens, Debussy / Charles Munch
    Label: Rca Victor Living Stereo   Catalog: 61500 Release Date: 03/09/1993   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jacques Ibert,  Claude Debussy,  Camille Saint-Saëns
    Performer:  Berj Zamkochian
    Conductor:  Charles Munch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 183.
    Karajan Gold - Debussy: La Mer, Prelude;  Ravel: Daphnis
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 439008 Release Date: 02/01/1993   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 184.
    Debussy: La Mer, Nocturnes, Etc / Solti, Chicago So
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 436468 Release Date: 11/10/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Chorus members,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
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  • 185.
    Debussy: Complete Works For Orchestra Vol 1 / Froment
    Label: Vox Box   Catalog: 5003 Release Date: 11/04/1992   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Louis de Froment
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Luxembourg Radio/Television Symphony Orchestra
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  • 186.
    Debussy: La Mer, Nocturnes, Etc / Rahbari, Brt Philharmonic
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8550262 Release Date: 06/30/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Jan Van Reeth
    Conductor:  Alexander Rahbari
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brussels Belgian Radio & TV Philharmonic Orchestra,  Brussels Belgian Radio & TV Philharmonic Chorus
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  • 187.
    The Solti Collection - Ravel: Bolero;  Debussy: La Mer
    Label: London/Decca Jubilee   Catalog: 430444 Release Date: 05/10/1991   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
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  • 188.
    Ravel: Bolero, Daphnis Et Chloe Suite; Debussy / Karajan
    Label: Dg Galleria   Catalog: 427250 Release Date: 05/09/1989   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
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