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, Ravel: Music for Two Pianos / Ashkenazys
Release Date: 08/25/2009   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 001312902   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: Favorite Piano Works / Tamás Vásáry
Release Date: 10/14/2003   Label: Deutsche Grammophon  
Catalog: 000125602   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy & Ravel On The Organ / Gunnar Idenstam
Release Date: 07/08/2014   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 2049   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: The Solo Piano Works / Noriko Ogawa
Release Date: 01/31/2012   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 1955   Number of Discs: 6
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Schumann: Symphony No 4; Debussy: Le Martyre De St. Sebastien Suite / Cantelli
Release Date: 09/25/2012   Label: Ica Classics  
Catalog: 5081   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Préludes, Book 1: no 8, La fille aux cheveux de lin

Browse 1-25 of 255 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    The Only Romantic Piano Album You Will Ever Need
    Label: Vanguard   Catalog: 6703 Release Date: 12/31/2025   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Lili Kraus,  Leon Fleisher,  Philippe Entremont,  Russell Sherman  ... 
    CD: $9.99
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  • 2.
    Debussy: Chamber Music
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 250302 Release Date: 04/08/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Milan Polak,  Vaclav Roubal,  Lukas Verner,  Frantisek Soucek  ... 
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  • 3.
    Fireworks! - Scarlatti, Brahms, Debussy, Liszt / Barbara Nissman
    Label: Three Oranges Recordings   Catalog: 5638267125 Release Date: 04/01/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Domenico Scarlatti,  Johannes Brahms,  Claude Debussy,  Franz Liszt
    Performer:  Barbara Nissman
    CD: $24.99
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  • 4.
    Icon: The Early Years - Yehudi Menuhin
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 928129 Release Date: 01/28/2014   Number of Discs: 12
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Marius Casadesus,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  George Enescu,  Hephzibah Menuhin,  Hubert Giesen  ... 
    Conductor:  George Enescu,  Pierre Monteux,  Sir Malcolm Sargent,  Sir Edward Elgar  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Symphony Orchestra,  Orchestre de la Société du Conservatoire Paris,  Orchestre de Paris  ... 
    On sale! $56.98
    CD: $47.99
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  • 5.
    Classical Wellness: Musical Tonics For Mind, Body And Spirit
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3464 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Henri Vieuxtemps,  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,  Wolseley Charles,  Dmitri Shostakovich  ... 
    Performer:  Dmitry Khakhamov,  Oleg Sergeev,  Grant Gershon,  John Aler  ... 
    Conductor:  Constantine Orbelian,  James DePreist,  Gerard Schwarz,  Anatoly Lapunov  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Style of Five,  The Russian Folk Ensemble Balalaika,  Brazilian Guitar Quartet  ... 
    CD: $17.99
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  • 6.
    Piano Dreams
    Label: Bella Musica   Catalog: 312449 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Franz Liszt  ... 
    Performer:  Yuko Yamashiro
    CD: $18.99
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  • 7.
    The Great French Pianists - The Original Piano Roll Recordings
    Label: Dal Segno   Catalog: 39 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Claude Debussy,  Gabriel Fauré,  Jacques Offenbach  ... 
    CD: $18.99
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  • 8.
    Classical Chamomile
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 1629 Release Date: 10/29/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Antonio Vivaldi,  Antonín Dvorák,  Alan Hovhaness,  Camille Saint-Saëns  ... 
    Performer:  Elmar Oliveira,  Douglas Davis,  Zuill Bailey,  Carol Rosenberger  ... 
    Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz,  David Wiley,  Constantine Orbelian,  Aldo Parisot
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Shanghai Quartet,  Yale Cellos
    CD: $9.99
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  • 9.
    Prelude Cocktail
    Label: Lawler + Fadoul   Catalog: 5638178065 Release Date: 09/18/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Alexander Scriabin,  Claude Debussy,  George Gershwin  ... 
    Performer:  Christopher Grymes
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lawler + Fadoul
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  • 10.
    Jorge Bolet - The Last Romantic
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 1037610 Release Date: 09/03/2013   Number of Discs: 9
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Claude Debussy,  Felix Mendelssohn,  César Franck  ... 
    Performer:  Jorge Bolet
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  • 11.
    The Most Relaxing Classics For Work In The Universe
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 17953 Release Date: 09/03/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Johann Pachelbel,  George Frideric Handel,  Antonio Vivaldi  ... 
    CD: $12.99
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  • 12.
    Portrait / 10forBrass
    Label: Genuin Musikproduction   Catalog: 13294 Release Date: 06/25/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Paul Dukas,  Giovanni Gabrieli,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Gustav Mahler  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  10forBrass
    CD: $18.99
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  • 13.
    Label: Sonoma   Catalog: 745 Release Date: 06/18/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn,  Claude Debussy,  Frédéric Chopin,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Peter Schmalfuss,  Stefan Jeschko,  Josef Bulva,  Sylvia Cápová  ... 
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  • 14.
    The Mood Of Fifty Shades Of Grey
    Label: Quicksilver   Catalog: 6016 Release Date: 12/04/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Pachelbel,  Edvard Grieg,  Claude Debussy,  Erik Satie  ... 
    Conductor:  Sheldon Cohen
    CD: $14.99
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  • 15.
    Pavane / Maxim Rysanov, Ashley Wass
    Label: Bis   Catalog: 1773 Release Date: 11/27/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Gabriel Fauré,  Richard Dubugnon,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Maxim Rysanov,  Ashley Wass
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  • 16.
    Alfred Cortot: Anniversary Edition
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 4907 Release Date: 11/19/2012   Number of Discs: 40
    Composer:  Isaac Albeniz,  Claude Debussy,  Frédéric Chopin,  Franz Liszt  ... 
    Performer:  Alfred Cortot,  Pablo Casals,  Jacques Thibaud,  Charles Panzera  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  International String Quartet
    On sale! $150.98
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  • 17.
    Dimensions - Works For String Orchestra
    Label: Navona   Catalog: 5895 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gregory Hutter,  Louis Babin,  Reynard Burns,  Andrew March  ... 
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  • 18.
    Fifty Shades Of Emotions
    Label: Belmondo   Catalog: 53 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Antonio Vivaldi,  Samuel Barber,  Claude Debussy,  Sergei Rachmaninov  ... 
    CD: $14.99
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  • 19.
    Heifetz In Performance
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 199846 Release Date: 11/06/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Sergei Prokofiev,  Claude Debussy,  Sergei Rachmaninov  ... 
    Performer:  Jascha Heifetz
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
    DVD: $11.99
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  • 20.
    The Best Classical Piano Ever!
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 04748 Release Date: 09/18/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Franz Liszt,  Gabriel Fauré,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  John Ogdon,  André Watts,  Aldo Ciccolini,  Cécile Ousset  ... 
    Conductor:  Bryden Thomson
    CD: $8.99
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  • 21.
    Fifty Shades Of Grey: The Classical Album
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 78466 Release Date: 09/11/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Johann Pachelbel,  Thomas Tallis,  Frédéric Chopin  ... 
    Performer:  Samson François,  Arleen Augér,  José Luis Garcia,  Peter Barley  ... 
    Conductor:  Riccardo Muti,  Sir Neville Marriner,  Yan Pascal Tortelier,  Stephen Cleobury  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cellos of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Cellos,  Les Violons du Roy
    CD: $15.99
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  • 22.
    Zino Francescatti - A Treasury Of Studio Recordings 1931-1955
    Label: Music & Arts   Catalog: 1260 Release Date: 07/31/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Ernest Chausson,  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Gabriel Fauré  ... 
    Performer:  Robert Casadesus,  Zino Francescatti,  Artur Balsam,  Max Lanner  ... 
    Conductor:  Eugene Ormandy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guilet String Quartet,  Philadelphia Orchestra
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  • 23.
    Claire De Lune - Debussy Favorites
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001675502 Release Date: 05/01/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  James Earl Barnes,  Timothy Hutchins,  Vera Badings,  Zoltán Kocsis  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Dutoit,  Bernard Haitink,  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Montreal Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,  Suisse Romande Orchestra  ... 
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  • 24.
    The Claude Debussy Collection
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 193179 Release Date: 05/01/2012   Number of Discs: 18
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Gervase de Peyer,  Ann Murray,  Nathalie Stutzmann,  Leslie Caron  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Munch,  Pierre Boulez,  Michael Tilson Thomas,  Esa-Pekka Salonen
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra  ... 
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  • 25.
    Chanson Dans La Nuit / Jitka Hosprova, Katerina Englichova
    Label: Supraphon   Catalog: 4089 Release Date: 04/24/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Gabriel Fauré,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Marin Marais  ... 
    Performer:  Jitka Hosprová,  Katerina Englichova
    CD: $19.99
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