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: Complete Works for Piano / Bavouzet
Release Date: 10/30/2012   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 10743   Number of Discs: 5
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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: 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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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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Work: Préludes, Book 1: no 8, La fille aux cheveux de lin

Browse 201-225 of 253 Available Recordings
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  • 201.
    Quiet Music for Quiet Times
    Label: Philips   Catalog: 454735 Release Date: 09/24/1996   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Mitsuko Uchida,  Peter Damm,  Stephen Kovacevich,  Irena Grafenauer  ... 
    Conductor:  Jeffrey Tate,  Sir Neville Marriner,  Sir Colin Davis,  Kurt Masur  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Holliger Wind Ensemble  ... 
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  • 202.
    The Longwood Gardens Organ Vol 1 / Thomas Murray
    Label: Dtr/Direct-to-tape   Catalog: 8305 Release Date: 09/23/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Fermin Swinnen,  Edwin Lemare,  George Frideric Handel,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Thomas Murray
    CD: $16.99
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  • 203.
    Grand Piano - Debussy / D'albert, Copeland, Grainger, Et Al
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 8807 Release Date: 07/06/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Eugène d' Albert,  Artur Rubinstein,  Myra Hess,  George Copeland  ... 
    CD: $11.99
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  • 204.
    Pastorale / Flute Force, Julius Baker
    Label: Vai Audio   Catalog: 1133 Release Date: 06/18/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Claude Debussy,  Anton Reicha,  Igor Stravinsky  ... 
    Performer:  Julius Baker,  Gretchen Pusch,  Rie Schmidt,  Wendy Stern  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Flute Force
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  • 205.
    Piano - French Masters - Greatest Hits
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 62367 Release Date: 05/14/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gabriel Fauré,  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy,  Erik Satie
    Performer:  Gaby Casadesus,  Robert Casadesus,  Philippe Entremont,  Paul Crossley  ... 
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  • 206.
    My Gift To You - Favorite Piano Encores / Antonin Kubalek
    Label: Sono Luminus   Catalog: 90218 Release Date: 04/09/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Ignace Jan Paderewski,  Franz Liszt,  Isaac Albeniz  ... 
    Performer:  Antonin Kubalek
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  • 207.
    Scriabin, Debussy, Takemitsu, Okashiro / Chitose Okashiro
    Label: Pro Piano   Catalog: 224502 Release Date: 01/18/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ichizo Okashiro,  Toru Takemitsu,  Claude Debussy,  Alexander Scriabin
    Performer:  Chitose Okashiro
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  • 208.
    The Young Menuhin - Encores
    Label: Testament   Catalog: 1003 Release Date: 01/01/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Ries,  Niccolò Paganini,  Ottokar Novácek,  Maurice Ravel  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Louis Persinger,  Hubert Giesen,  Artur Balsam  ... 
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  • 209.
    Debussy: Preludes Book 1;  Janácek: In The Mist / Parkinson
    Label: Connoisseur Society   Catalog: 4198 Release Date: 12/01/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Leos Janácek
    Performer:  Zaidee Parkinson
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  • 210.
    All Of The World's Most Beautiful Melodies! / Mccann, Et Al
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 4536 Release Date: 10/17/1995   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Traditional,  Ruggero Leoncavallo,  Johann Paul A. Martini,  Helen Guy  ... 
    Performer:  Phillip McCann,  Simon Lindley,  Roy Newsome,  Skaila Kanga  ... 
    Conductor:  Roy Newsome,  Major Peter Parkes,  Douglas Blackledge,  Gordon Langford
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sellers Engineering Band,  Huddersfield Choral Society,  Leeds Parish Church Boys' Choir  ... 
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  • 211.
    Piano Favorites / Moura Lympany
    Label: Emi Seraphim   Catalog: 69028 Release Date: 10/17/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Erik Satie,  Maurice Ravel,  Frédéric Chopin,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Moura Lympany
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  • 212.
    Isaac Stern - A Life In Music - Lalo, Saint-saens, Chausson
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 64501 Release Date: 07/25/1995   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy,  Ernest Chausson,  Gabriel Fauré  ... 
    Performer:  Isaac Stern
    Conductor:  Eugene Ormandy,  Milton Katims,  Frank Brieff,  Daniel Barenboim  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra,  Columbia Symphony Orchestra,  Orchestre de Paris  ... 
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  • 213.
    Clair De Lune - Debussy: Piano Works / Alexis Weissenberg
    Label: Dg Masters   Catalog: 445547 Release Date: 06/13/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Alexis Weissenberg
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  • 214.
    Stokowski Encores / Matthias Bamert, Bbc Philharmonic
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 9349 Release Date: 04/18/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov,  Johann Mattheson,  John Philip Sousa,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky  ... 
    Performer:  Patrick Addinall
    Conductor:  Matthias Bamert
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 215.
    Label: Philips   Catalog: 446484 Release Date: 04/11/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Claudio Arrau,  Zoltán Kocsis,  Roger Bourdin,  Colette Lequien  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Monteux,  André Previn,  Paul Paray,  John Williams
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Quartetto Italiano,  Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 216.
    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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  • 217.
    The London Violin Sound
    Label: Cala Records   Catalog: 105 Release Date: 01/17/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Antonín Dvorák,  Vittorio Monti,  George Gershwin,  Pietro Mascagni  ... 
    Conductor:  Geoffrey Simon
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra First Violins,  London Philharmonic First Violins,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra First Violins
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  • 218.
    Violin - Greatest Hits
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 66701 Release Date: 12/06/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Edouard Lalo,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Claude Debussy,  Antonín Dvorák  ... 
    Performer:  Pinchas Zukerman,  Isaac Stern,  Teiko Maehashi,  Jeanne Lamon  ... 
    Conductor:  Zubin Mehta,  Eugene Ormandy,  Frank Brieff,  Milton Katims  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra,  Philadelphia Orchestra,  Columbia Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 219.
    Mad About Romantic Piano
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 445771 Release Date: 09/20/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Johannes Brahms,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Rudolf Serkin,  Lilya Zilberstein,  Alexis Weissenberg,  Andrei Gavrilov  ... 
    Conductor:  Claudio Abbado,  Herbert von Karajan,  André Previn,  Neeme Järvi
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 220.
    Selections From The Heifetz Collection
    Label: Rca Victor Gold Seal   Catalog: 62645 Release Date: 09/13/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Manuel de Falla,  George Gershwin,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  Jascha Heifetz,  Brooks Smith,  Israel Baker,  Arnold Belnick  ... 
    Conductor:  Fritz Reiner,  Alfred Wallenstein,  William Steinberg,  Franz Waxman  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra,  RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 221.
    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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  • 222.
    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
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  • 223.
    Romantic French Music For Guitar And Orchestra / Garcia
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8550480 Release Date: 02/15/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Gabriel Fauré,  Erik Satie
    Performer:  Gerald Garcia
    Conductor:  Peter Breiner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kosice State Philharmonic
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  • 224.
    The Best Of Debussy
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8556663 Release Date: 02/15/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Klára Körmendi,  Péter Nagy
    Conductor:  Alexander Rahbari,  Keith Clark
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brussels Belgian Radio & TV Philharmonic Orchestra,  Kodály String Quartet,  Bratislava Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
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  • 225.
    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
    CD: $17.99
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