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
Roussel, Debussy & Poulenc: Orchestral Works / Yamada, Orchestre de Suisse Romande
Release Date: 09/09/2016   Label: Pentatone  
Catalog: 5186558   Number of Discs: 1
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Ravel & Debussy: Music for 2 Guitars / ChromaDuo
Release Date: 09/09/2016   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8573286   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: Pelléas Et Mélisande / Pierre Boulez
Release Date: 12/13/1991   Label: Sony  
Catalog: 47265   Number of Discs: 3
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Debussy: Pelléas Et Mélisande / Dutoit, Henry, Alliot-lugaz
Release Date: 10/15/2008   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 430502   Number of Discs: 2
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Debussy: The Edgar Allan Poe Operas / Mueller, Gottinger Symphonie
Release Date: 06/24/2016   Label: Pan Classics  
Catalog: 10342   Number of Discs: 2
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Work: Préludes, Book 1

Browse 1-25 of 99 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Debussy: Preludes, Images & Nocturne / Ammara
    Label: Pinao Classics   Catalog: 0110 Release Date: 09/30/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Alessandra Ammara
    CD: $17.99
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  • 2.
    Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli: Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002559502 Release Date: 09/23/2016   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Franz Schubert,  Frédéric Chopin  ... 
    Performer:  Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli
    CD: $61.49
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  • 3.
    Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se respondent / Erny
    Label: Solo Musica   Catalog: 238 Release Date: 06/10/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Liszt,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Christian Erny
    CD: $18.99
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  • 4.
    Un siecle de musique francaise (A Century of French Music)
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 88875192862 Release Date: 05/13/2016   Number of Discs: 25
    Composer:  Pierre Boulez,  Claude Debussy,  Erik Satie,  Olivier Messiaen  ... 
    Performer:  Yvonne Minton,  Gervase de Peyer,  Michel Dalberto,  Daniel Varsano  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Boulez,  Charles Munch,  Seiji Ozawa,  Richard Marlow  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Musique Vivante,  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $39.99
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  • 5.
    Ravel & Debussy: Piano Works / Tarasevich-Nikolaev
    Label: Acousence Classics   Catalog: 12616 Release Date: 04/08/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev
    CD: $18.99
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  • 6.
    111: The Collector's Editions [111 CDs]
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002422702 Release Date: 12/11/2015   Number of Discs: 111
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Maurice Ravel,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  David Oistrakh,  Igor Oistrakh,  Sviatoslav Richter,  Martha Argerich  ... 
    Conductor:  Claudio Abbado,  Daniel Barenboim,  Lorin Maazel,  Franz Konwitschny  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Amadeus Quartet,  Orchestre de Paris  ... 
    CD: $325.49
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  • 7.
    Debussy: Preludes, Premier Livre
    Label: Bongiovanni   Catalog: 5186 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Sandro Baldi
    CD: $17.99
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  • 8.
    Starry Night - Debussy / Michael Lewin
    Label: Sono Luminus   Catalog: 92190 Release Date: 07/31/2015   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Michael Lewin
    CD: $24.99
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  • 9.
    111 - The Piano - Legendary Recordings
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002281002 Release Date: 04/21/2015   Number of Discs: 40
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Robert Schumann,  Frédéric Chopin,  Johannes Brahms  ... 
    Performer:  Pierre-Laurent Aimard,  Géza Anda,  Martha Argerich,  Daniel Barenboim  ... 
    CD: $168.99
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  • 10.
    Debussy
    Label: Maguelone   Catalog: 111192 Release Date: 04/14/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Marguerite Long
    Performer:  Pascal Gallet
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  • 11.
    Debussy: Preludes
    Label: Neos   Catalog: 21303 Release Date: 09/30/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Gilead Mishory
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  • 12.
    Debussy: Preludes For Piano, Books 1 & 2   / Catherine Kautsky
    Label: Centaur Records   Catalog: 3308 Release Date: 09/09/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Catherine Kautsky
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  • 13.
    Debussy: Preludes, Book 1 & 2
    Label: Piano Classics   Catalog: 64 Release Date: 04/29/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Hiroko Sasaki
    CD: $17.99
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  • 14.
    Nino Gvetadze Plays Debussy
    Label: Orchid Classics   Catalog: 100041 Release Date: 02/25/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Nino Gvetadze
    CD: $17.99
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  • 15.
    Decca Sound - The Analogue Years
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001934702 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 54
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Anton Bruckner,  Arnold Schoenberg,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Pascal Rogé,  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Marilyn Horne,  Luciano Pavarotti  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Dutoit,  Sir Georg Solti,  Bernard Haitink,  Horst Stein  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $181.49
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  • 16.
    Debussy, Stravinsky, Newman / Andrew Von Oeyen
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3454 Release Date: 10/29/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Igor Stravinsky,  David Newman
    Performer:  Andrew von Oeyen
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  • 17.
    Debussy: Preludes Books 1 & 2 / Catherine Collard
    Label: Newton Classics   Catalog: 8802208 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Catherine Collard
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  • 18.
    Complete Preludes
    Label: Regis   Catalog: 1111 Release Date: 07/12/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Martino Tirimo
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  • 19.
    Debussy: Preludes, Valse Romantique and More / Fergus-Thompson
    Label: Regis   Catalog: 2017 Release Date: 07/12/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Gordon Fergus-Thompson
    CD: $21.99
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  • 20.
    Debussy: Complete Preludes / Martino Tirimo
    Label: Musical Concepts   Catalog: 1211 Release Date: 05/07/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Martino Tirimo
    CD: $9.99
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  • 21.
    Sviatoslav Richter In Recital: Haydn, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Prokofiev
    Label: Regis   Catalog: 1399 Release Date: 03/28/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn,  Frédéric Chopin,  Claude Debussy,  Sergei Prokofiev  ... 
    Performer:  Sviatoslav Richter
    CD: $9.99
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  • 22.
    Debussy: The Piano Works / Martino Tirimo
    Label: Musical Concepts   Catalog: 4002 Release Date: 11/27/2012   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Martino Tirimo
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  • 23.
    Alfred Cortot: Anniversary Edition
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 4907 Release Date: 11/19/2012   Number of Discs: 40
    Composer:  Isaac Albeniz,  Claude Debussy,  Frédéric Chopin,  Franz Liszt  ... 
    Performer:  Alfred Cortot,  Pablo Casals,  Jacques Thibaud,  Charles Panzera  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  International String Quartet
    On sale! $119.98
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  • 24.
    Debussy: Preludes
    Label: Melodiya   Catalog: 1002002 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Alexei Lubimov
    CD: $29.99
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  • 25.
    Debussy: Complete Works for Piano / Bavouzet
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 10743 Release Date: 10/30/2012   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet
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