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
Gershwin, Ravel, Debussy / O'Riley, Wordsworth, Royal PO
Release Date: 08/11/2009   Label: Royal Philharmonic Masterworks  
Catalog: 28050   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: Arabesques, Clair de Lune, Golliwogg's Cakewalk / Ronan O'Hora
Release Date: 06/14/2011   Label: Royal Philharmonic Masterworks  
Catalog: 29040   Number of Discs: 1
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Les Amis - Debussy, Caplet / Elizabeth Hainen
Release Date: 11/12/2013   Label: Avie  
Catalog: 2285   Number of Discs: 1
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Satoh, Debussy, Messiaen, Etc / Anne Akiko Meyers, Li Jian
Release Date: 09/23/2003   Label: Avie  
Catalog: 24   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: 12 Etudes / Mitsuko Uchida
Release Date: 07/04/2006   Label: Philips  
Catalog: 000701102   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: String Quartet

Browse 26-50 of 76 Available Recordings
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  • 26.
    Debussy, Ravel: String Quartets / Lasalle Quartet
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 469591 Release Date: 10/21/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  LaSalle String Quartet
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  • 27.
    Retrospective Edition / Schoenberg Quartet
    Label: Etcetera Records   Catalog: 1382 Release Date: 10/13/2009   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Henri Dutilleux,  Ernest Chausson  ... 
    Performer:  Frédéric Meinders,  Rainer Kussmaul,  Pierre Woudenberg,  Wim de Jong  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schoenberg String Quartet
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  • 28.
    French Saxophone Quartets / Aurelia Saxophone Quartet
    Label: Challenge   Catalog: 72331 Release Date: 09/08/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Albert Roussel,  Eugčne Bozza  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aurelia Saxophone Quartet
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  • 29.
    String Quartets Of The Early 20th Century / Quatuor Sine Nomine
    Label: Genuin Musikproduction   Catalog: 89141 Release Date: 06/30/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Igor Stravinsky,  Claude Debussy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sine Nomine String Quartet
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  • 30.
    Impressions - Debussy, Ravel / Tokyo String Quartet
    Label: Rca Victor Red Seal   Catalog: 62552 Release Date: 05/08/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel
    Performer:  Sadao Harada,  Kazuhide Isomura,  Peter Oundjian,  Kikuei Ikeda  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tokyo String Quartet
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  • 31.
    Ravel, Debussy, Faure: String Quartets / Quatuor Ebene
    Label: Virgin Classics   Catalog: 19045 Release Date: 10/14/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Gabriel Fauré,  Maurice Ravel
    Performer:  Mathieu Herzog,  Pierre Colombet,  Raphael Merlin,  Gabriel Le Magadure
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quatuor Ebčne
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  • 32.
    Ravel, Debussy: String Quartets / Melos Quartet
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 419750 Release Date: 08/05/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Melos String Quartet Stuttgart
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  • 33.
    Debussy, Ravel: String Quartets / St. Petersburg String Quartet
    Label: Marquis   Catalog: 81379 Release Date: 07/08/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Petersburg String Quartet
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  • 34.
    French Trios & Quartets / Caecelian Trio
    Label: Vox Box   Catalog: 3031 Release Date: 05/20/2008   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Gabriel Fauré,  Claude Debussy,  Edouard Lalo  ... 
    Performer:  Jacqueline Eymar,  Bernard Braunholz,  Günter Kehr,  Sally O'Reilly  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Caecelian Trio,  Loewenguth String Quartet,  New Hungarian String Quartet
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  • 35.
    Simply Debussy
    Label: Union Square   Catalog: 1205644 Release Date: 10/09/2007   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Michel Béroff,  Yuji Takahashi,  Alain Plančs,  Jacques Rouvier  ... 
    Conductor:  Jean Fournet,  Emmanuel Krivine,  Eliahu Inbal
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  • 36.
    Debussy, Fauré, Caplet / Leipzig String Quartet
    Label: Md&g (Dabringhaus & Grimm) Gold   Catalog: 3071430 Release Date: 09/25/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  André Caplet,  Gabriel Fauré,  Claude Debussy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig String Quartet
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  • 37.
    Ravel, Debussy: String Quartets / Ysa˙e Quartet
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 430434 Release Date: 06/25/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Michel Poulet,  Miguel Da Silva,  Luc-Marie Aguera,  Christophe Giovaninetti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ysa˙e String Quartet
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  • 38.
    Ravel, Debussy: String Quartets / Klinko, Davies, Chilingirian Quartet
    Label: Emi Classics For Pleasure   Catalog: 82231 Release Date: 03/20/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel
    Performer:  Philippa Davies,  Csaba Erdélyi,  Mark Butler,  Levon Chilingirian  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chilingirian String Quartet,  Paris Opera Orchestra Soloists Ensemble
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  • 39.
    Cypress String Quartet: Debussy, Suk, Cotton
    Label: Cd Baby   Catalog: 5637260755 Release Date: 01/16/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Josef Suk,  Claude Debussy,  Jeffery Cotton
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cypress String Quartet
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  • 40.
    Debut - Formosa Quartet
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 66557 Release Date: 01/16/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hugo Wolf,  Claude Debussy,  Franz Schubert,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Formosa String Quartet
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  • 41.
    Debussy, Stravinsky, Faure / Ysaye Quartet
    Label: Wigmore Hall Live   Catalog: 12 Release Date: 11/21/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Igor Stravinsky,  Gabriel Fauré
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ysa˙e String Quartet
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  • 42.
    Haydn, Debussy, Webern, Et Al / Rubin String Quartet
    Label: Arte Nova   Catalog: 900690 Release Date: 11/14/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jean-C. Feldhandler,  Anton Webern,  Claude Debussy,  Franz Joseph Haydn
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rubin Quartet
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  • 43.
    Debussy, Borodine, Wolf: String Quartets / Quartour Alcan
    Label: Analekta   Catalog: 23019 Release Date: 10/26/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hugo Wolf,  Alexander Borodin,  Claude Debussy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alcan String Quartet
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  • 44.
    Ravel, Debussy, Schumann: String Quartets / Capet Quartet
    Label: Opus Kura   Catalog: 2057 Release Date: 02/28/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Robert Schumann
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capet String Quartet
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  • 45.
    Debussy, Ravel, Webern / Juilliard String Quartet
    Label: Testament   Catalog: 1375 Release Date: 10/11/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Anton Webern
    Performer:  Raphael Hillyer,  Isidore Cohen,  Robert Mann,  Claus Adam
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Juilliard String Quartet
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  • 46.
    Schubert, Debussy, Milhaud: Quartets / Quartetto Italiano
    Label: Urania   Catalog: 278 Release Date: 06/28/2005   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  Claude Debussy,  Darius Milhaud
    Performer:  Elisa Pegreffi,  Franco Rossi,  Piero Farulli,  Paolo Borciani
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
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  • 47.
    Debussy, Zemlinsky: String Quartets / Casals Quartet
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 987057 Release Date: 05/10/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Alexander von Zemlinsky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
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  • 48.
    Historical Recordings / Hungarian String Quartet, Et Al
    Label: Music & Arts Programs Of America   Catalog: 1161 Release Date: 02/22/2005   Number of Discs: 8
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Claude Debussy,  Robert Schumann,  Alexander Glazunov  ... 
    Performer:  Gábor Magyar,  Alexandre Moskowsky,  Zoltán Székely,  Denes Koromzay  ... 
    Conductor:  Willem van Otterloo
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hungarian String Quartet,  Hague Residentie Orchestra
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  • 49.
    Ravel, Debussy: Strings Quartets / Parkanyi Quartet
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 250208 Release Date: 12/14/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Párkányí String Quartet
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  • 50.
    Turina, Debussy: String Quartets / Cuarteto Latinoamericano
    Label: Urtext   Catalog: 75 Release Date: 02/03/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Joaquin Turina,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Saúl Bitrán,  Arón Bitrán,  Alvaro Bitrán,  Javier Montiel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Latinoamericano String Quartet
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