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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
The Claude Debussy Collection
Release Date: 05/01/2012   Label: Sony  
Catalog: 193179   Number of Discs: 18
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Ravel, Debussy / Pierre Boulez [6-CD Set]
Release Date: 05/08/2012   Label: Deutsche Grammophon  
Catalog: 001676802   Number of Discs: 6
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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: Orchestral Works, Vol. 4 / Markl, Orchestra National De Lyon
Release Date: 09/28/2010   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8572297   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: Complete Orchestral Works / Jun Markl, Orchestre National De Lyon
Release Date: 02/28/2012   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8509002   Number of Discs: 9
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Work: Préludes, Book 1: no 10, La cathédrale engloutie

Browse 1-25 of 90 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Phase 4 Stereo - Stereo Concert Series
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002188302 Release Date: 10/27/2014   Number of Discs: 41
    Composer:  John Philip Sousa,  Charles A. Zimmerman,  Francis S. Van Boskerck,  George Norton  ... 
    Performer:  Stanley Black,  David Parkhouse,  Alan Loveday,  Robert Merrill  ... 
    Conductor:  Rodney Bashford,  Stanley Black,  Bernard Herrmann,  Edward Downes  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grenadier Guards Band,  London Festival Orchestra,  London Festival Recording Ensemble  ... 
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  • 2.
    The Sea In Music
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8578269 Release Date: 02/25/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Arnold Bax,  Frank Bridge,  Claude Debussy,  Sir Edward Elgar  ... 
    Performer:  Sarah Connolly,  István Kassai,  François-Joël Thiollier
    Conductor:  David Lloyd-Jones,  James Judd,  Jun Märkl,  Simon Wright  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra,  New Zealand Symphony Orchestra,  Lyon National Orchestra  ... 
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  • 3.
    Debussy: La Cathedrale Engloutie - Organ Transcriptions / Wiebusch
    Label: Audite   Catalog: 97699 Release Date: 01/28/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Carsten Wiebusch
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  • 4.
    Icon: Witold Malcuzynski - The Polish Master Pianist
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 924428 Release Date: 01/28/2014   Number of Discs: 8
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Frédéric Chopin,  Franz Liszt,  Sergei Rachmaninov  ... 
    Performer:  Witold Malcuzynski
    Conductor:  Walter Susskind,  Paul Kletzki,  Fritz Rieger
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra,  French National Radio Orchestra
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  • 5.
    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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  • 6.
    The Great French Pianists - The Original Piano Roll Recordings
    Label: Dal Segno   Catalog: 39 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Claude Debussy,  Gabriel Fauré,  Jacques Offenbach  ... 
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  • 7.
    BBC Legends - Great Recordings from the Archive
    Label: Ica Classics   Catalog: 5113 Release Date: 10/29/2013   Number of Discs: 20
    Composer:  Gustav Mahler,  Dmitri Shostakovich,  Robert Schumann,  Johann Sebastian Bach  ... 
    Performer:  Beryl Hatt,  Agnes Giebel,  Joyce Barker,  Kerstin Meyer  ... 
    Conductor:  Jascha Horenstein,  Yevgeny Mravinsky,  Arturo Toscanini,  Kiril Kondrashin  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Orpington Junior Singers,  Goldsmiths' Choral Union  ... 
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  • 8.
    Boesendorfer Sound / Carol Rosenberger
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3460 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard R. Bennett,  Franz Liszt,  Enrique Granados,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Carol Rosenberger
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  • 9.
    Jorge Bolet - The Last Romantic
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 1037610 Release Date: 09/03/2013   Number of Discs: 9
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Claude Debussy,  Felix Mendelssohn,  César Franck  ... 
    Performer:  Jorge Bolet
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  • 10.
    Pianist Lost, Volume 2: Sunken Cathedrals [includes Blu-ray audio]
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 1205 Release Date: 07/09/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Valentin Alkan,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Frédéric Chopin,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Peter Halstead
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  • 11.
    50 Best Chillout Classics
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 332942 Release Date: 02/26/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Johann Pachelbel,  Tomaso Albinoni,  Gregorio Allegri,  Christoph W. Gluck  ... 
    Performer:  Gerald Finley,  Juliette Hurel,  Emmanuel Pahud,  Christopher Warren-Green  ... 
    Conductor:  Maurice Handford,  Sir Neville Marriner,  Stephen Cleobury,  Yannick Nézet-Séguin  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork,  Ahn Trio,  Twelve Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic  ... 
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  • 12.
    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
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  • 13.
    Circus & Magic / Zarins
    Label: Champs Hill Records   Catalog: 48 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Sergei Prokofiev,  György Ligeti,  Igor Stravinsky  ... 
    Performer:  Reinis Zarins
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  • 14.
    Harriet Cohen - Complete Solo Studio Recordings
    Label: Apr   Catalog: 7304 Release Date: 07/10/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Hubert Bath,  Arnold Bax  ... 
    Performer:  Harriet Cohen
    Conductor:  Sir Henry Wood,  Walter Susskind,  Hubert Bath,  Muir Mathieson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 15.
    Claire De Lune - Debussy Favorites
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001675502 Release Date: 05/01/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  James Earl Barnes,  Timothy Hutchins,  Vera Badings,  Zoltán Kocsis  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Dutoit,  Bernard Haitink,  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Montreal Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,  Suisse Romande Orchestra  ... 
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  • 16.
    The Britannic Organ, Vol  3 - Welte Philharmonic Organ
    Label: Oehms   Catalog: 841 Release Date: 03/27/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Lowell Mason,  Arthur Sullivan,  John Bacchus Dykes  ... 
    Performer:  David Rumsey,  Joseph Bonnet,  Bernard Ten Cate,  Marco Enrico Bossi  ... 
    CD: $34.99
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  • 17.
    Music & Painters - Music Of The Era Of Monet, Chagall, Courbet & Picasso
    Label: Naive   Catalog: 5283 Release Date: 01/31/2012   Number of Discs: 7
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy,  Gabriel Fauré,  Ernest Chausson  ... 
    Performer:  Anne Gastinel,  Daniel Blumenthal,  Marie-Nicole Lemieux,  Noel Lee  ... 
    Conductor:  Dmitry Yablonsky,  Christoph Eschenbach,  Alain Lombard,  Bernard Haitink  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kasbek Ensemble,  Russian State Symphony Orchestra,  Orchestre de Paris  ... 
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  • 18.
    Wild Blue Yonder / United States Air Force Band
    Label: Altissimo   Catalog: 61482 Release Date: 01/31/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  James Barnes,  Claude Debussy,  Arnold Schoenberg,  Michael Mogensen  ... 
    Conductor:  Dennis M. Layendecker
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  United States Air Force Band
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  • 19.
    The Art Of Maurizio Pollini [3-CD Limited Edition]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001637502 Release Date: 01/10/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky,  Anton Webern,  Frédéric Chopin,  Ludwig van Beethoven  ... 
    Performer:  Maurizio Pollini
    Conductor:  Karl Böhm,  Jerzy Katlewicz
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
    On sale! $35.98
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  • 20.
    Essential Harp
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 94907 Release Date: 07/12/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Antonio Vivaldi,  Francesco Petrini,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Marielle Nordmann,  Julia Thornton,  Markus Klinko,  Ann Griffiths  ... 
    Conductor:  Jean-Jacques Kantorow,  Erno Olah,  Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos,  Theodor Guschelbauer  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris National Opera Orchestra,  Ensemble Instrumental Sinfonia
    CD: $12.99
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  • 21.
    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
    CD: $9.99
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  • 22.
    Liverpool Spectacular!
    Label: Priory Records   Catalog: 1042 Release Date: 06/14/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Gounod,  Jon Fjellestad,  Daniel Rathbone,  Marian Sawa  ... 
    Performer:  Richard Lea
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  • 23.
    The Debussy Experience
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 79230 Release Date: 02/22/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Philippe Jouvet,  Monique Haas,  Jean-Pierre Rampal,  Eric Tappy  ... 
    Conductor:  Alain Lombard,  Armin Jordan,  James Conlon
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  • 24.
    Colin Matthews: The Debussy Preludes / Elder, Halle Orchestra
    Label: Hallé   Catalog: 7527 Release Date: 01/11/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Colin Matthews
    Conductor:  Mark Elder
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
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  • 25.
    Debussy: 16 Preludes / Jorge Bolet
    Label: Newton Classics   Catalog: 8802026 Release Date: 11/16/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Jorge Bolet
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