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

Debussy: Pelleas Et Melisande / Elder, Dean, Hannon, Tomlinson, Walker
Release Date: 01/31/2012   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 3177   Number of Discs: 3
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Debussy: Complete Works for Piano / Bavouzet
Release Date: 10/30/2012   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 10743   Number of Discs: 5
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Ravel, Debussy & Massenet / Bavouzet, Tortelier, BBC Symphony Orchestra
Release Date: 11/16/2010   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 5084   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: String Quartet, Piano Trio, Deux Danses / Brodsky Quartet
Release Date: 04/24/2012   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 10717   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: Orchestral Works / Deneve, Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Release Date: 05/29/2012   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 5102   Number of Discs: 2
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Work: Préludes, Book 1: no 10, La cathédrale engloutie

Browse 26-50 of 93 Available Recordings
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  • 26.
    Programs, Vol. 4: The Bells
    Label: Telos   Catalog: 75 Release Date: 10/26/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Michael Gielen,  Stefan Litwin,  Franz Liszt  ... 
    Performer:  Stefan Litwin,  David Moss
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  • 27.
    Label: Wergo   Catalog: 68042 Release Date: 08/03/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  George Crumb
    Performer:  Enrico Bertorelli
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  • 28.
    50 Best Adagios
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 57489 Release Date: 06/29/2010   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Tomaso Albinoni,  Johann Pachelbel,  Gregorio Allegri,  Antonio Vivaldi  ... 
    Performer:  Giovanni Scaramuzzino,  Véronique Gens,  David Daniels,  Steven Isserlis  ... 
    Conductor:  Ian Watson,  Andrew Parrott,  Christopher Warren-Green,  Fabio Biondi  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taverner Players,  Taverner Consort,  Seminario Musicale  ... 
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  • 29.
    Voyage a Paris / Greg McCallum
    Label: Msr   Catalog: 1233 Release Date: 03/09/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Francis Poulenc,  Claude Debussy,  César Franck,  Olivier Messiaen  ... 
    Performer:  Greg McCallum
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  • 30.
    2006 Midwest Clinic
    Label: Mark Records   Catalog: 5637566858 Release Date: 11/24/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Emil Waldteufel,  Arnold Schoenberg,  Henry Fillmore,  Alberto Ginastera  ... 
    Conductor:  Dennis M. Layendecker
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  United States Air Force Band
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  • 31.
    Debussy: 16 Preludes / Jorge Bolet
    Label: Eloquence   Catalog: 4801131 Release Date: 08/04/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Jorge Bolet
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  • 32.
    Debussy: Jeux, Preludes;  Matthews: Postlude / Elder, Halle Orchestra
    Label: Hallé   Catalog: 7518 Release Date: 05/12/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Colin Matthews
    Conductor:  Mark Elder
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
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  • 33.
    Debussy Greatest Hits
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 742561 Release Date: 03/24/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Paul Crossley
    Conductor:  Charles Munch,  Louis Lane,  Pierre Boulez
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra,  New Philharmonia Orchestra
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  • 34.
    The Welte-mignon Mystery, Vol. 12 - Debussy, Ravel
    Label: Tacet   Catalog: 166 Release Date: 03/15/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy
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  • 35.
    Homage To Debussy / Eric Himy
    Label: Centaur Records   Catalog: 2968 Release Date: 11/25/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Eric Himy
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  • 36.
    Zen Classics - Mozart, Debussy, Etc / L. Maazel, P. Jarvi, N. Dessay, Et Al
    Label: Virgin Classics   Catalog: 34865 Release Date: 11/24/2008   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Antonio Vivaldi,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Performer:  Mikhail Pletnev,  Barbara Hendricks,  Augustin Dumay,  Steven Isserlis  ... 
    Conductor:  Daniel Harding,  Mikhail Pletnev,  Andrew Parrott,  Marek Janowski  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  German Chamber Philharmonic Bremen,  Taverner Players,  French National Radio Orchestra  ... 
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  • 37.
    Jiří Kylián's Car Men
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 102101 Release Date: 05/27/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Georges Bizet,  Claude Debussy
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  • 38.
    Stokowski Encores
    Label: London/Decca Weekend Classics   Catalog: 433876 Release Date: 02/06/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Igor Stravinsky,  Claude Debussy,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky  ... 
    Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 39.
    Firkusny Edition - Debussy By Firkusny
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 66067 Release Date: 12/07/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Rudolf Firkusny
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  • 40.
    The Ultimate Most Relaxing Debussy In The Universe
    Label: Denon Records   Catalog: 17700 Release Date: 08/21/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Michel Béroff,  Chee-Yun,  Chee-Yun,  Susanna Mildonian  ... 
    Conductor:  Emmanuel Krivine
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  • 41.
    Irén Marik - From Mozart To Messiaen - With John Ranck
    Label: Arbiter   Catalog: 152 Release Date: 05/29/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Robert Schumann,  Johannes Brahms,  Franz Schubert,  Ludwig van Beethoven  ... 
    Performer:  Irén Marik,  John Ranck
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  • 42.
    Debussy: 16 Preludes / Jorge Bolet
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 425518 Release Date: 02/14/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Jorge Bolet
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  • 43.
    Angel Dances / 12 Cellists Of Berlin Philharmonic
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 57030 Release Date: 07/18/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Astor Piazzolla,  Volker Schlott,  Giacomo Carissimi,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  David Delacroix,  Hans-Dieter Lorenz,  Jocelyn B. Smith,  Franz Schindelbeck  ... 
    Conductor:  Simon Halsey
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Twelve Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic,  Berlin Radio Chorus members
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  • 44.
    The Very Best Of Debussy
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8552127 Release Date: 04/25/2006   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Pascal Devoyon,  Dong-Suk Kang,  François-Joël Thiollier,  Sjur Bjaerke  ... 
    Conductor:  Leif Segerstam,  Alexander Rahbari,  Jean-Claude Casadesus
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vertavo String Quartet,  Brussels Belgian Radio & TV Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 45.
    Moments With Annette - Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Scriabin
    Label: Dtr/Direct-to-tape   Catalog: 8704 Release Date: 04/04/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Frédéric Chopin,  Alexander Scriabin,  Sergei Prokofiev  ... 
    Performer:  Annette DiMedio
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  • 46.
    Weekend Classics - A Debussy Weekend
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 000583302 Release Date: 02/14/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Doriot Dwyer,  Alfons Kontarsky,  Aloys Kontarsky,  Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael Tilson Thomas,  Claudio Abbado,  Carlo Maria Giulini
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 47.
    Masters Of The Piano Roll - The Great Female Pianists Vol 1
    Label: Dal Segno   Catalog: 11 Release Date: 11/29/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Wanda Landowska,  Myra Hess
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  • 48.
    Legend - Music Of Myth, Magic And Mystery
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 33619 Release Date: 11/08/2005   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Jean Sibelius,  Richard Wagner,  Claude Debussy,  Sergei Rachmaninov  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli,  Klaus Tennstedt,  Jean Martinon,  Wolfgang Sawallisch  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  ORTF National Chorus  ... 
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  • 49.
    The Most Relaxing Harp Album In The World...ever!
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 33588 Release Date: 10/04/2005   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Claude Debussy,  Erik Satie,  Alphonse Hasselmans  ... 
    Performer:  Nancy Allen,  Mariko Anraku,  Markus Klinko,  Julia Thornton  ... 
    Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz,  Erno Olah,  Louis Auriacombe,  Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra,  Netherlands National Radio Orchestra,  Toulouse Chamber Orchestra  ... 
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  • 50.
    Debussy: Preludes Book 1, Estampes / Miceal O'rourke
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 9078 Release Date: 03/01/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Míceál O'Rourke
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