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 ŕ l'aprčs-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 ŕ l'aprčs-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: Songs, Vol. 3 / Mcgovern, France, Martineau
Release Date: 10/14/2014   Label: Hyperion  
Catalog: 68016   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: Pelleas et Melisande / Gilfry, Rey, Welser-Most
Release Date: 11/13/2012   Label: Arthaus Musik  
Catalog: 107285   Number of Discs: 2
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Debussy:  La Mer, Images, Prelude A L’apres-midi D’un Faune / Shui, Singapore Symphony
Release Date: 11/11/2014   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 1837   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: Songs, Vol. 2 / Anderson, Milne, Martineau
Release Date: 04/10/2012   Label: Hyperion  
Catalog: 67883   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: Solo Piano Music / Angela Hewitt
Release Date: 10/09/2012   Label: Hyperion  
Catalog: 67898   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune

Browse 1-25 of 288 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Debussy:  La Mer, Images, Prelude A L’apres-midi D’un Faune / Shui, Singapore Symphony
    Label: Bis   Catalog: 1837 Release Date: 11/11/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Lan Shui
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
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  • 2.
    Love And Passion In Music
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 7828990 Release Date: 11/11/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Léo Delibes,  Claude Debussy,  Alexander Glazunov  ... 
    Performer:  Takako Nishizaki,  Rivka Golani,  János Selmeczy
    Conductor:  Peter Breiner,  Andrew Mogrelia,  Alexander Rahbari,  Konstantin Krimetz  ... 
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  • 3.
    Leonard Bernstein Edition - Concertos & Orchestral Works
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 301330 Release Date: 10/27/2014   Number of Discs: 80
    Composer:  Samuel Barber,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Antonio Vivaldi,  Béla Bartók  ... 
    Performer:  Isaac Stern,  Leonard Bernstein,  Harold Gomberg,  William Heim  ... 
    Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein,  Seiji Ozawa,  Maurice Peress
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic,  New York Philharmonic members,  Columbia Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 4.
    James Galway - The Complete RCA Album Collection
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 302633 Release Date: 09/16/2014   Number of Discs: 73
    Composer:  Arthur Smith,  Various,  Traditional,  Stan Lebowsky  ... 
    Performer:  James Galway,  Sylvia,  Marisa Robles,  Phillip Moll  ... 
    Conductor:  Claudio Scimone,  Sir Neville Marriner,  Jörg Faerber,  Eduardo Mata  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Solisti Veneti,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Galway Pops Orchestra  ... 
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  • 5.
    La Flute Enchantee - Debussy, Franck, Jongen / Heinzmann, Blumina
    Label: Genuin Musikproduction   Catalog: 14318 Release Date: 09/09/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Joseph Jongen,  César Franck,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Hans-Udo Heinzmann,  Elisaveta Blumina
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  • 6.
    Ferenc Fricsay: Complete Recordings On Deutsche Grammophon, Vol. 1 - Orchestral Works
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002132602 Release Date: 09/02/2014   Number of Discs: 45
    Composer:  Béla Bartók,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms,  César Franck  ... 
    Performer:  Géza Anda,  Tibor Varga,  Helmut Krebs,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau  ... 
    Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 7.
    Firebird: 20th Century Piano Transcriptions
    Label: Odradek   Catalog: 312 Release Date: 05/13/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky,  Claude Debussy,  Arnold Schoenberg,  Yoichi Sugiyama
    Performer:  Aki Kuroda
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  • 8.
    RCA Living Stereo Collection Vol 2
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 300350 Release Date: 05/13/2014   Number of Discs: 60
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Richard Strauss,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky  ... 
    Performer:  Artur Rubinstein,  Byron Janis,  Gary Graffman,  Vladimir Horowitz  ... 
    Conductor:  Josef Krips,  Fritz Reiner,  Pierre Monteux,  Charles Munch  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Symphony of the Air,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 9.
    The Art Of The French Flute
    Label: Indesens   Catalog: 62 Release Date: 04/29/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gabriel Fauré,  Claude Debussy,  Charles-Marie Widor,  Francis Poulenc  ... 
    Performer:  Vincent Lucas,  Emmanuel Strosser,  Claudia Bara
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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.
    Debussy: Chamber Music
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 250302 Release Date: 04/08/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Milan Polak,  Vaclav Roubal,  Lukas Verner,  Frantisek Soucek  ... 
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  • 12.
    Classica Francese / Anette Maiburg
    Label: Md&g (Dabringhaus & Grimm)   Catalog: 9101825 Release Date: 01/21/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Jean Cras,  André Jolivet,  Pierre Barouh  ... 
    Performer:  Wen Xiao Zheng,  Anette Maiburg,  Emmanuel Ceysson,  Karina Buschinger  ... 
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  • 13.
    The American Symphonic Organ / Jean-Baptiste Robin
    Label: Brilliant Classics   Catalog: 94726 Release Date: 12/10/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Isaac Albeniz,  Béla Bartók,  Georges Bizet  ... 
    Performer:  Jean-Baptiste Robin,  STacey Rishoi
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  • 14.
    Bernard Haitink - The Philips Years [20-CD Set]
    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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  • 15.
    Mussorgsky/Stokowski: Pictures At An Exhibition  / Yamada, Japan Philharmonic
    Label: Exton   Catalog: 489 Release Date: 09/10/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Modest Mussorgsky
    Conductor:  Kazuki Yamada
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Japan Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 16.
    Mahler: Symphony No. 4, Debussy: Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune / Pinnock, Royal Academy of Music
    Label: Linn Records   Catalog: 438 Release Date: 08/27/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Gustav Mahler
    Conductor:  Trevor Pinnock
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble
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  • 17.
    Debussy: Images; Prelude A L'apres-midi D'un Faune; La Boite A Joujoux
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 350093 Release Date: 08/13/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Lucien Lavaillote
    Conductor:  Manuel Rosenthal,  Ernest Ansermet
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  • 18.
    Label: Urania   Catalog: 22398 Release Date: 07/16/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hector Berlioz,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Bruno Walter
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  • 19.
    Label: Urania   Catalog: 22257 Release Date: 07/16/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hector Berlioz,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Bruno Walter
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  • 20.
    Debussy: La mer, Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune; Ravel, Saint-Saens / Pascal & Ami Roge
    Label: Onyx   Catalog: 4117 Release Date: 07/09/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Camille Saint-Saëns
    Performer:  Ami Rogé,  Pascal Rogé
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  • 21.
    Transcriptions / Grau Schumacher Piano Duo
    Label: Neos   Catalog: 20903 Release Date: 07/02/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Richard Wagner,  Sergei Rachmaninov  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  GrauSchumacher Piano Duo
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  • 22.
    Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps; Ravel, Debussy / Jordan, Paris National Opera
    Label: Naive   Catalog: 5332 Release Date: 05/28/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Igor Stravinsky,  Maurice Ravel
    Conductor:  Armin Jordan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris National Opera Orchestra
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  • 23.
    Debussy: Complete Music for Piano Duo / Damerini, Rapetti
    Label: Brilliant Classics   Catalog: 94448 Release Date: 04/30/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Massimiliano Damerini,  Marco Rapetti
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  • 24.
    Masters Of The Modern Age I: Music From The Time Of Degas, Cezanne, And Van Gogh
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8503269 Release Date: 04/30/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Edouard Lalo,  César Franck,  Emmanuel Chabrier,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Performer:  Maria Kliegel,  Michaël Levinas,  Arnaldo Cohen,  Hidenori Komatsu  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael Halász,  Hervé Niquet,  Johannes Wildner,  Cord Garben  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quatuor Ludwig
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  • 25.
    Karajan Adagio: Music To Free Your Mind
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001805202 Release Date: 03/05/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Pietro Mascagni,  Johann Pachelbel,  Gustav Mahler,  Jules Massenet  ... 
    Performer:  Wolfgang Meyer,  Frank Maus,  Michel Schwalbé,  Karlheinz Zöller  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
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