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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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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: 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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Reger, Schulhoff, Sherwood, Debussy, Mendelssohn - Piano For Four Hands / Matthias Veit , Henning Lucius
Release Date: 12/09/2014   Label: Telos  
Catalog: 63   Number of Discs: 1
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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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Work: Préludes, Book 1: no 8, La fille aux cheveux de lin

Browse 26-50 of 235 Available Recordings
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  • 26.
    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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  • 27.
    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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  • 28.
    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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  • 29.
    Michael Rabin - The Unpublished Recordings
    Label: Testament   Catalog: 1470 Release Date: 02/14/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Johannes Brahms,  Max Bruch,  John Alden Carpenter  ... 
    Performer:  Michael Rabin
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    CD: $62.49
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  • 30.
    Rudolf Ganz Am Klavier Und Als Dirigent
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 2377 Release Date: 02/14/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Franz Liszt,  Adolf Jensen,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  Rudolf Ganz
    Conductor:  Rudolf Ganz
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  • 31.
    Hsia-jung Chang Plays Debussy
    Label: Mandala Studio   Catalog: 5637874563 Release Date: 12/13/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Hsia-Jung Chang
    CD: $23.99
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  • 32.
    The Art Of Luigi Alberto Bianchi
    Label: Dynamic   Catalog: 690 Release Date: 11/22/2011   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Antonio Bazzini,  Niccolò Paganini,  Fritz Kreisler,  Pablo de Sarasate  ... 
    Performer:  Luigi A. Bianchi,  Aldo Arvieto,  Maruizio Preda,  Bruno Canino  ... 
    Conductor:  Jacques Delacôte
    CD: $58.99
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  • 33.
    Label: X5 Music Group   Catalog: 109 Release Date: 10/25/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Pietro Mascagni,  Claude Debussy,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Edvard Grieg  ... 
    Performer:  Finghin Collins,  Craig Ogden,  Pieter Schoeman,  Peter Schmalfuss  ... 
    Conductor:  Heribert Beissel,  David Parry,  Ilmar Lapinsch,  Klaus Arp  ... 
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  • 34.
    Piano Dreams / Avis Romm
    Label: Opening Day   Catalog: 7411 Release Date: 08/16/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Frédéric Chopin,  Robert Schumann,  Johann Sebastian Bach  ... 
    Performer:  Avis Romm
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  • 35.
    Debussy: Arabesques, Clair de Lune, Golliwogg's Cakewalk / Ronan O'Hora
    Label: Royal Philharmonic Masterworks   Catalog: 29040 Release Date: 06/14/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Ronan O'Hora
    CD: $9.99
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  • 36.
    The Heifetz Collection Vol 6 - 1946-1947
    Label: Rca Victor Gold Seal   Catalog: 61737 Release Date: 04/21/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco,  Maurice Ravel,  Nikolai Medtner  ... 
    Performer:  Jascha Heifetz,  Emanuel Bay,  Stanley Chaloupka
    Conductor:  Franz Waxman,  William Steinberg,  Sir Malcolm Sargent
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  RCA Victor Chamber Orchestra,  RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 37.
    All Directions
    Label: Preiser Records   Catalog: 91181 Release Date: 03/08/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Lennon,  Claude Debussy,  Jan Koetsier,  Leonhard Paul  ... 
    Performer:  Trombone Attraction
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trombone Attraction
    On sale! $22.98
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  • 38.
    The Debussy Experience
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 79230 Release Date: 02/22/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Philippe Jouvet,  Monique Haas,  Jean-Pierre Rampal,  Eric Tappy  ... 
    Conductor:  Alain Lombard,  Armin Jordan,  James Conlon
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  • 39.
    Bonjour Paris / Albrecht Mayer, Academy Of St. Martin Of The Fields
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001522502 Release Date: 02/08/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Gabriel Fauré,  Jean Françaix,  Gotthard Odermatt  ... 
    Performer:  Albrecht Mayer
    Conductor:  Matthias Mönius,  Gotthard Odermatt
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
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  • 40.
    Best Children's Classics 100
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 17626 Release Date: 01/11/2011   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,  Gioachino Rossini  ... 
    Performer:  Itzhak Perlman,  Katia Labèque,  Marielle Labèque,  Moura Lympany  ... 
    Conductor:  Zubin Mehta,  Sir Neville Marriner,  Riccardo Muti,  Simon Rattle  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Israel Philharmonic Orchestra,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
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  • 41.
    Colin Matthews: The Debussy Preludes / Elder, Halle Orchestra
    Label: Hallé   Catalog: 7527 Release Date: 01/11/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Colin Matthews
    Conductor:  Mark Elder
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
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  • 42.
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 648500 Release Date: 11/16/2010   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,  Gioachino Rossini  ... 
    Performer:  Itzhak Perlman,  Katia Labèque,  Marielle Labèque,  Moura Lympany  ... 
    Conductor:  Zubin Mehta,  Sir Neville Marriner,  Riccardo Muti,  Simon Rattle  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Israel Philharmonic Orchestra,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
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  • 43.
    Debussy: 16 Preludes / Jorge Bolet
    Label: Newton Classics   Catalog: 8802026 Release Date: 11/16/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Jorge Bolet
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  • 44.
    Jorge Bolet - The Romantic Virtuoso
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001479502 Release Date: 10/05/2010   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Franz Liszt,  Paul de Schlözer,  Isaac Albeniz,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Jorge Bolet
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti,  Iván Fischer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 45.
    Essential Piano
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 27925 Release Date: 08/24/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Franz Liszt,  Johannes Brahms,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Stephen Kovacevich,  Daniel Adni,  John Ogdon,  Jean-Philippe Collard  ... 
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  • 46.
    Poetes Du Piano
    Label: Onyx   Catalog: 4057 Release Date: 08/10/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gabriel Fauré,  Frédéric Chopin,  Francis Poulenc,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Pascal Rogé
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  • 47.
    Label: Wergo   Catalog: 68042 Release Date: 08/03/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  George Crumb
    Performer:  Enrico Bertorelli
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  • 48.
    50 Best Piano
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 57540 Release Date: 06/29/2010   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Franz Liszt,  Claude Debussy,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Mikhail Pletnev,  André Watts,  Stanislav Bunin,  Moura Lympany  ... 
    Conductor:  Wayne Marshall,  Leonard Bernstein,  Jerzy Maksymiuk,  David Zinman  ... 
    CD: $11.99
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  • 49.
    50 Best Relaxing Classics
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 57547 Release Date: 06/29/2010   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Georges Bizet,  Jules Massenet,  Gabriel Fauré,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  Hans Kalafusz,  Stephen Farr,  Han-Na Chang,  Jacqueline Du Pré  ... 
    Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa,  Sir Neville Marriner,  David Hill,  Sir Charles Mackerras  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra Wind and Brass Ensemble
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  • 50.
    Voyage
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 6118 Release Date: 06/08/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Leroy Anderson,  Niccolò Paganini,  Frédéric Chopin,  Traditional  ... 
    Performer:  Emma Johnson,  John Lenehan,  Rolf Wilson
    Conductor:  Julian Reynolds
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