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

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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Debussy: Complete Works for Piano / Bavouzet
Release Date: 10/30/2012   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 10743   Number of Discs: 5
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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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Work: Préludes, Book 1: no 10, La cathédrale engloutie

Browse 51-75 of 93 Available Recordings
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  • 51.
    Gloria - Virtuoso Romantic Masterpieces / Gloria Saarinen
    Label: Doremi Records   Catalog: 71145 Release Date: 02/15/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Frédéric Chopin,  Franz Liszt,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Performer:  Gloria Saarinen
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  • 52.
    Richter In Recital - Haydn, Debussy, Prokofiev
    Label: Vanguard   Catalog: 1586 Release Date: 12/07/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn,  Claude Debussy,  Sergei Prokofiev
    Performer:  Sviatoslav Richter
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  • 53.
    Radiance - Zen Classics: Meditative Melodies
    Label: Denon Records   Catalog: 17376 Release Date: 06/01/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Tadashi Yanada,  Haseo Sugiyama,  Claude Debussy,  Kosaku Yamada  ... 
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  • 54.
    Debussy: Clair De Lune And Other Piano Favorites / Thiollier
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8555800 Release Date: 05/18/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  François-Joël Thiollier
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  • 55.
    Romantic Piano / David Barela
    Label: Eroica Classical Recordings   Catalog: 3173 Release Date: 04/27/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Enrique Granados,  Franz Liszt,  Samuel Barber  ... 
    Performer:  David Barela
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  • 56.
    Debussy - Orchestral Works / Dutoit, Ansermet, Chailly, Etc
    Label: Philips   Catalog: 000213002 Release Date: 04/13/2004   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Robert Gugoltz,  Vera Badings,  James Earl Barnes,  Pierre-Vincent Plante  ... 
    Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly,  Ernest Ansermet,  Bernard Haitink,  Charles Dutoit  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Montreal Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 57.
    Debussy: Preludes Books 1 & 2 / Ralph Votapek
    Label: Ivory Classics   Catalog: 73004 Release Date: 04/06/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Ralph Votapek
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  • 58.
    Harpistry / Julia Thornton
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 90145 Release Date: 03/09/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giovanni B. Pescetti,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Carlos Salzedo  ... 
    Performer:  Julia Thornton
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  • 59.
    Debussy's Harp / Yolanda Kondonassis
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80622 Release Date: 11/25/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Yolanda Kondonassis
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  • 60.
    Original Masters - Leopold Stokowski
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000150902 Release Date: 11/25/2003   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Sir Edward Elgar,  Olivier Messiaen,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Alan Civil,  David Gray,  Howard Snell
    Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus  ... 
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  • 61.
    Masters Of The Piano Roll - Debussy Plays Debussy
    Label: Dal Segno   Catalog: 1 Release Date: 09/30/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Walter Gieseking,  Carol Robinson,  Leff Pouishnov,  Richard Buhlig  ... 
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  • 62.
    Debussy - Greatest Hits
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000069302 Release Date: 08/12/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli,  Pascal Rogé,  Julian Lloyd Webber
    Conductor:  Giuseppe Sinopoli,  Pierre Boulez,  Ernest Ansermet,  John Williams  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra,  Suisse Romande Orchestra  ... 
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  • 63.
    Alfred Cortot - The Late Recordings Vol 1 - 1947
    Label: Apr (Appian)   Catalog: 5571 Release Date: 07/30/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Schumann,  Frédéric Chopin,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Alfred Cortot
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  • 64.
    Classics - The Fantastic Stokowski Transcriptions / Kunzel
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80338 Release Date: 07/23/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Johannes Brahms,  Modest Mussorgsky,  Sergei Rachmaninov  ... 
    Conductor:  Erich Kunzel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cincinnati Pops
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  • 65.
    Essential Debussy - 26 Of His Greatest Masterpieces
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 472404 Release Date: 07/16/2002   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Doriot Dwyer,  Sviatoslav Richter,  Jean-Yves Thibaudet,  Alexis Weissenberg  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Herbert von Karajan,  Charles Dutoit,  Pierre Boulez  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Montreal Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 66.
    Label: Supraphon   Catalog: 3584 Release Date: 01/29/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  César Franck,  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel
    Performer:  Ivan Moravec
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  • 67.
    Walter Gieseking At Rias - 1950-55 Broadcast Performances
    Label: Music & Arts Programs Of America   Catalog: 1098 Release Date: 01/22/2002   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Alexander Scriabin,  Johannes Brahms  ... 
    Performer:  Walter Gieseking
    Conductor:  Antal Doráti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
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  • 68.
    Label: Supraphon   Catalog: 3580 Release Date: 12/18/2001   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  César Franck,  Claude Debussy,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  ... 
    Performer:  Ivan Moravec
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  • 69.
    Debussy - Greatest Hits
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 63803 Release Date: 08/07/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Kathryn Stott,  Catherine Collard,  James Galway,  Michel Dalberto
    Conductor:  Charles Munch,  James Galway
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Guarneri String Quartet,  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
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  • 70.
    Rubinstein Collection Vol 30 - Franck, Debussy, Etc
    Label: Rca Victor Red Seal   Catalog: 63030 Release Date: 01/09/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Enrique Granados,  Claude Debussy,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Artur Rubinstein
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  • 71.
    Walter Gieseking - Public Performances 1933-1947
    Label: Music & Arts Programs Of America   Catalog: 1070 Release Date: 11/28/2000   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Alexander Scriabin,  Johannes Brahms,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Walter Gieseking
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  • 72.
    Claude Debussy - The Composer As Pianist
    Label: Pierian   Catalog: 1 Release Date: 09/26/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Mary Garden,  Claude Debussy
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  • 73.
    Holst: The Planets;  Debussy, Gould / Stokowski, Nbc So
    Label: Cala Records   Catalog: 526 Release Date: 03/07/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Morton Gould,  Claude Debussy,  Gustav Holst
    Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra
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  • 74.
    Impressions Of The Sea / Joann Falletta, Long Beach So
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 364 Release Date: 01/25/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Frank Bridge,  Anatole Liadov,  Felix Mendelssohn
    Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Long Beach Symphony Orchestra
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  • 75.
    Tomita - Snowflakes Are Dancing
    Label: Rca Red Seal Hp   Catalog: 63588 Release Date: 01/11/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Isao Tomita
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