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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
The Claude Debussy Collection
Release Date: 05/01/2012   Label: Sony  
Catalog: 193179   Number of Discs: 18
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Debussy: Pelleas et Melisande / Gilfry, Rey, Welser-Most
Release Date: 11/13/2012   Label: Arthaus Musik  
Catalog: 107285   Number of Discs: 2
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Ravel, Debussy / Pierre Boulez [6-CD Set]
Release Date: 05/08/2012   Label: Deutsche Grammophon  
Catalog: 001676802   Number of Discs: 6
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Debussy: Orchestral Works, Vol. 4 / Markl, Orchestra National De Lyon
Release Date: 09/28/2010   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8572297   Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy: Complete Orchestral Works / Jun Markl, Orchestre National De Lyon
Release Date: 02/28/2012   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8509002   Number of Discs: 9
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Work: Préludes, Book 1: no 8, La fille aux cheveux de lin

Browse 226-236 of 236 Available Recordings
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  • 226.
    French Music For Clarinet And Piano / De Peyer, Pryor
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 8526 Release Date: 10/28/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gabriel Pierné,  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Florent Schmitt  ... 
    Performer:  Gwenneth Pryor,  Gervase de Peyer
    CD: $18.99
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  • 227.
    Virtuoso Cello Encores / Maria Kliegel, Raymund Havenith
    Label: Marco Polo   Catalog: 223403 Release Date: 10/26/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henri Vieuxtemps,  George Gershwin,  Jacques Offenbach,  Siegfried Barchet  ... 
    Performer:  Raimund Havenith,  Maria Kliegel
    CD not available
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  • 228.
    The World's Most Beautiful Melodies / Phillip Mccann
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 4501 Release Date: 07/29/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arthur Sullivan,  Franz Schubert,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Giacomo Puccini  ... 
    Performer:  Iain Robertson,  Phillip McCann
    Conductor:  Major Peter Parkes
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Black Dyke Mills Band
    CD: $11.99
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  • 229.
    Romantic Brass - Music Of France And Spain / Empire Brass
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80301 Release Date: 01/28/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Joaquin Turina,  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Isaac Albeniz  ... 
    Performer:  Richard Jensen,  Edward Flower
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Empire Brass
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 230.
    Van Cliburn - My Favorite Encores
    Label: Rca Victor Gold Seal   Catalog: 60726 Release Date: 05/10/1991   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Alexander Scriabin,  Franz Liszt  ... 
    Performer:  Van Cliburn
    CD: $9.99
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  • 231.
    Pops In Love / John Williams, Boston Pops
    Label: Philips   Catalog: 416361 Release Date: 10/25/1990   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Johann Pachelbel,  Erik Satie,  Maurice Ravel  ... 
    Performer:  Leone Buyse,  Alfred Genovese,  Richard Sebring,  Martha Babcock  ... 
    Conductor:  John T. Williams
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Pops
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  • 232.
    Rampal - Greatest Hits Vol 1
    Label: Cbs Masterworks   Catalog: 34561 Release Date: 10/25/1990   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alexander Alyabyev,  Antonio Bazzini,  Claude Debussy,  Frédéric Chopin  ... 
    Performer:  Futabu Inoue,  Jean-Pierre Rampal
    CD not available
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  • 233.
    Dinner Classics - The French Album
    Label: Cbs Masterworks   Catalog: 45543 Release Date: 05/17/1990   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hector Berlioz,  Charles Gounod,  Jacques Offenbach,  Léo Delibes  ... 
    Performer:  John De Lancie
    Conductor:  Charles Munch,  Eugene Ormandy,  William Smith,  Philippe Entremont  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
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  • 234.
    Humoresque - Favorite Violin Encores / Isaac Stern
    Label: Cbs Masterworks Digital Masters   Catalog: 45816 Release Date: 03/09/1990   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Aaron Copland,  Franz Schubert,  Antonín Dvorák,  Sergei Rachmaninov  ... 
    Performer:  Isaac Stern
    Conductor:  Milton Katims,  Frank Brieff
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbia Symphony Orchestra
    CD not available
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  • 235.
    James Galway - Serenade
    Label: Rca Victor Red Seal   Catalog: 60033 Release Date: 06/28/1989   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Riccardo Drigo,  Gabriel Fauré,  Sergei Rachmaninov  ... 
    Performer:  James Galway,  Marisa Robles,  Ayako Shinozaki,  Kazuhito Yamashita  ... 
    Conductor:  James Galway,  Charles Gerhardt,  Charles Dutoit,  Hiroyuki Iwaki  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe,  National Philharmonic Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $9.99
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  • 236.
    Empire Brass In Japan
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 704384 Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Traditional,  Thomas "Fats" Waller,  F.J. "Jelly Roll" Morton,  David Chesky  ... 
    Performer:  Sam Pilafian,  Martin Hackleman,  Rolf Smedvig
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Empire Brass
    CD not available
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