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 ŕ l'aprčs-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 ŕ l'aprčs-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
Nielsen, Debussy & Francaix: Clarinet Concertos / Soltan, Gomez, Hamburg Symphony
Release Date: 08/05/2016   Label: Md&g (Dabringhaus & Grimm)  
Catalog: 9011964   Number of Discs: 1
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Gunst & Debussy: Works for Violin & Piano / Lang, Denisova
Release Date: 08/12/2016   Label: Oehms  
Catalog: OC 1842   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: String Quartet

Browse 1-25 of 77 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    The Originals, Vol. 2
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: B002534902 Release Date: 09/09/2016   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Béla Bartók,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  ... 
    Performer:  Helmut Walcha,  Nathan Milstein,  Géza Anda,  Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli  ... 
    Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay,  Carlo Maria Giulini,  Eugen Jochum,  Wolfgang Schneiderhan  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Vienna Symphony Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $142.49
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  • 2.
    Emerson String Quartet: Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: B002514572 Release Date: 07/15/2016   Number of Discs: 52
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Béla Bartók,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Carol Wincenc,  Mstislav Rostropovich,  Thomas Hampson,  Menahem Pressler  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Emerson String Quartet
    CD: $159.99
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  • 3.
    Debussy: String Quartet - Takemitsu: Nostalghia / Scottish Ensemble
    Label: Linn Records   Catalog: 512 Release Date: 06/10/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Toru Takemitsu
    Performer:  Alastair Savage,  Sharron Griffiths,  Ben Norris,  Laura Comini  ... 
    Conductor:  Jonathan Morton
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Ensemble
    CD: $19.99
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  • 4.
    Franck: Piano Quintet - Debussy: String Quartet / Takacs Quartet
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 68061 Release Date: 05/27/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  César Franck,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Takács String Quartet
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  • 5.
    Deutsche Grammophon: The Mono Era (1948-1957)
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002457272 Release Date: 03/18/2016   Number of Discs: 51
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  Dmitri Shostakovich,  Frédéric Chopin,  Johannes Brahms  ... 
    Performer:  Stefan Askenase,  Shura Cherkassky,  Halina Czerny-Stefanska,  Basile Bolotine  ... 
    Conductor:  Karel Ancerl,  Karl Böhm,  Serge Jaroff,  Leopold Ludwig  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amadeus Quartet,  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 6.
    Debussy: Chamber Music
    Label: Arcana   Catalog: 392 Release Date: 02/26/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Sara Kuijken,  Veronica Kuijken,  Sigiswald Kuijken
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuijken Ensemble
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  • 7.
    Philips Classics: The Stereo Years
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002445602 Release Date: 02/19/2016   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Jean Sibelius,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Robert Schumann,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Salvatore Accardo,  Elly Ameling,  Dalton Baldwin,  Jörg Demus  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis,  Bernard Haitink,  Raymond Leppard,  Eduard Van Beinum  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,  English Chamber Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $134.49
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  • 8.
    Debussy: String Quartet; Ravel: String Quartet, Introduction & Allegro; Britten: Cello Sonata
    Label: Musical Concepts   Catalog: 1296 Release Date: 02/05/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Osian Ellis,  Mstislav Rostropovich,  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet,  Melos Ensemble London
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  • 9.
    Szymanowsky, Debussy: String Quartets
    Label: Brilliant Classics   Catalog: 94744 Release Date: 01/29/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Karol Szymanowski
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Prometeo
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  • 10.
    Quartetto Italiano: Complete Decca, Philips & Deutsche Grammophon Recordings
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002410802 Release Date: 12/11/2015   Number of Discs: 37
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Franz Joseph Haydn,  Roman Hoffstetter  ... 
    Performer:  Paolo Borciani,  Franco Rossi,  Piero Farulli,  Elisa Pegreffi  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
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  • 11.
    Similar Motion
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 1592 Release Date: 10/13/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Philip Glass,  Arthur Kampela,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Cyrus Beroukhim
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  • 12.
    Blue: String Quartets By Claude Debussy, Lin Yang And Maurice Ravel
    Label: Genuin Classics   Catalog: 15373 Release Date: 10/09/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Lin Yang,  Maurice Ravel
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  • 13.
    French-Hungarian Impressionism?
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 250312 Release Date: 09/11/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Béla Bartók
    CD: $22.99
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  • 14.
    Illuminations / Avalon String Quartet
    Label: Cedille Records   Catalog: 156 Release Date: 08/14/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Benjamin Britten,  Stacy Garrop,  Osvaldo Golijov
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Avalon String Quartet
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  • 15.
    Sound Escapes
    Label: Capriccio Records   Catalog: 5239 Release Date: 04/14/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Thomas Adčs,  Maurice Ravel
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  • 16.
    Debussy: String Quartet, Danses; Caplet: Conte Fantastique, Prieres / Nordmann, Quatuor Debussy
    Label: Timpani   Catalog: 11207 Release Date: 06/10/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  André Caplet
    Performer:  Marielle Nordmann,  Françoise Masset,  Yann Dubost
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Debussy String Quartet
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  • 17.
    Debussy, Ravel: String Quartets
    Label: Abc Classics   Catalog: 4766904 Release Date: 06/03/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Australian String Quartet
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  • 18.
    Brahms, Debussy: String Quartets
    Label: Msr   Catalog: 1424 Release Date: 07/09/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Claude Debussy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ceruti String Quartet
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  • 19.
    Debussy, Saint-Saens, Ravel: String Quartets / Modigliani Quartet
    Label: Mirare   Catalog: 188 Release Date: 04/09/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy,  Camille Saint-Saëns
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Modigliani String Quartet
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  • 20.
    Debussy, Ravel, Dutilleux: String Quartets / Juilliard Quartet
    Label: Newton Classics   Catalog: 8802159 Release Date: 01/29/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Henri Dutilleux
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Juilliard String Quartet
    CD: $12.99
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  • 21.
    Debussy: String Quartet, Danse Sacree & Danse Profane, Piano Trio / Danel Quartet
    Label: Fuga Libera   Catalog: 595 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Korneel [Double Bass] Lecompte,  Francette Bartholomée,  Daniel Blumenthal
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Danel Quartet
    CD: $18.99
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  • 22.
    Debussy & Ravel: String Quartets / Borodin Quartet
    Label: Melodiya   Catalog: 1001973 Release Date: 10/09/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borodin String Quartet
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  • 23.
    Debussy, Ravel, Kodaly: String Quartets / Melos Quartet
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001739402 Release Date: 10/09/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Zoltán Kodály
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Melos String Quartet Stuttgart
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  • 24.
    Debussy, Ravel: String Quartets
    Label: La Dolce Volta   Catalog: 8 Release Date: 09/12/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Vladimir Bukac,  Jan Talich,  Roman Patocka,  Petr Prause
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Talich String Quartet
    CD: $23.99
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  • 25.
    20th Century String Quartets - Debussy, Ravel, Toldra & Zemlinsky / Cuarteto Casals
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 508390 Release Date: 07/10/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Eduardo Toldrá,  Joaquin Turina,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
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