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: String Quartet; Ravel: String Quartet, Introduction & Allegro; Britten: Cello Sonata
Release Date: 02/05/2016   Label: Musical Concepts  
Catalog: 1296   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: La Mer, Nocturnes... / Fruhbeck de Burgos
Release Date: 01/20/2015   Label: Musical Concepts  
Catalog: 1277   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: Complete Preludes / Martino Tirimo
Release Date: 05/07/2013   Label: Musical Concepts  
Catalog: 1211   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: Piano Suites / Martino Tirimo
Release Date: 02/04/2014   Label: Musical Concepts  
Catalog: 1221   Number of Discs: 1
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Claude Debussy: Préludes & Images / Jos Van Immerseel
Release Date: 08/01/1998   Label: Channel Classics  
Catalog: 4892   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Préludes, Book 1: no 10, La cathédrale engloutie

Browse 76-82 of 82 Available Recordings
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  • 76.
    Debussy: Clair De Lune
    Label: Zyx Records   Catalog: 4029 Release Date: 02/21/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Peter Schmalfuss,  Jadwiga Kotnowska
    Conductor:  Loic Bertrand
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  • 77.
    Debussy - Greatest Hits
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 64065 Release Date: 08/09/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Paul Crossley,  Branford Marsalis,  Philippe Entremont
    Conductor:  Michael Tilson Thomas,  Andrew Litton,  Pierre Boulez,  Eugene Ormandy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Juilliard String Quartet  ... 
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  • 78.
    Debussy: Clair De Lune And Other Piano Favourites / Jones
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 7702 Release Date: 05/02/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Martin Jones
    CD: $14.99
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  • 79.
    Debussy, Ravel: Orchestral Music
    Label: Chesky Records   Catalog: 101 Release Date: 01/17/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel
    Conductor:  Eric Hammerstein,  Georges Prêtre
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Proms Orchestra,  Beecham Choral Society,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 80.
    Cathedrals In Sound - Liszt, Debussy, Et Al / Stevenson
    Label: Altarus   Catalog: 9043 Release Date: 04/20/1993   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Kaikhosru Sorabji,  Ronald Stevenson,  Edward MacDowell  ... 
    Performer:  Ronald Stevenson
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  • 81.
    Debussy: Solo Piano Music Vol 1 / Peter Frankl
    Label: Vox Box   Catalog: 5062 Release Date: 11/04/1992   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Peter Frankl
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  • 82.
    Water Music Of The Impressionists / Carol Rosenberger
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3006 Release Date: 05/22/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Charles Tomlinson Griffes,  Franz Liszt
    Performer:  Carol Rosenberger
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