Claude Debussy
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/960x540/p01bqk7d.jpg
1862-08-22
https://musicbrainz.org/artist/be50643c-0377-4968-b48c-47e06b2e2a3b
Claude Debussy

Biography

Charting Debussy’s education tells us little about his roots. His rebellion against his teacher’s admonishment of his delight in a series of ‘forbidden’ harmonies resulted in his conclusion that ‘mon plaisir’ was the only rule: individuality and hedonism were all ...

Read more


Biography

Charting Debussy’s education tells us little about his roots. His rebellion against his teacher’s admonishment of his delight in a series of ‘forbidden’ harmonies resulted in his conclusion that ‘mon plaisir’ was the only rule: individuality and hedonism were all that mattered. His real teachers were close friends, lovers (sometimes), literature of many sorts and, perhaps, painting.

In his youth he was introduced to contemporary French poetry – particularly that of Banville, Verlaine and Mallarmé – through a relationship with an older woman. From song-writing he moved on to cantatas such as La damoiselle élue, a setting of a poem by the English Pre-Raphaelite poet-painter Rossetti. Debussy’s one outstanding operatic venture, Pelléas et Mélisande, occupied him for much of the 1890s, but in this decade he also deepened his ability to parallel the work of contemporary poets, both in songs and in the purely orchestral Prélude à L’après-midi d’un faune.

Another side of his output has often been compared to Impressionist painting. But the painter whose work is closer to Debussy’s ideas was James McNeill Whistler, whose series of works entitled Nocturnes may be connected to the composer’s orchestral triptych of 1897–9.

Never complacent and always seeking new challenges in every aspect of composition, in the new century he would turn to the evocation of entirely different places. Most celebrated is his only piece that resembles a symphony: La mer. It captures not only the sounds and rhythms of the sea, but also the changing weather and time of day. Further exploits – including the orchestral Images – would take Debussy to Spain.

Alongside these masterpieces of orchestral evocation, Debussy also developed a highly personal piano style. Perhaps the first piece to show a marked difference from his earlier piano music was the first piece from the two books of Images for piano, ‘Reflets dans l’eau’. Its rippling arpeggios, bathed in pedal, pioneered a new Impressionist piano style.

In the two books of Préludes for piano Debussy showed the infinite variety of his imagination. Enigmatically printed with the titles at the end rather than at the beginning, almost all the pieces have some kind of extramusical association: perhaps with a place, or a literary idea. The sequel to the Préludes was a set of pieces with no associations other than to themselves: a set of 12 piano Études.

Among the composer’s last works, the ballet Jeux is regarded as a highlight, and of the six planned late sonatas only three were written. Of the three unwritten sonatas, that for the extraordinary combination of oboe, horn and harpsichord must rank among the most lamented of planned works never to have reached fruition.

Profile © Richard Langham Smith

Claude Debussy Audio & Video


Claude Debussy Tracks

Sort by

Robert Schumann
6 Studies (Op.56), arr. Debussy for 2 pianos
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqfz9.jpg
link
6 Studies (Op.56), arr. Debussy for 2 pianos
Claude Debussy
Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune
Claude Debussy
Preludes - book 1, no.10; La Cathedrale engloutie
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Preludes - book 1, no.10; La Cathedrale engloutie
Claude Debussy
Suite bergamasque for piano, Clair de lune
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Suite bergamasque for piano, Clair de lune
Claude Debussy
Suite bergamasque arranged for Orchestra: Prelude
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Suite bergamasque arranged for Orchestra: Prelude
Claude Debussy
Mazurka for piano
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Mazurka for piano
Claude Debussy
Six Epigraphes Antiques
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Six Epigraphes Antiques
Claude Debussy
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (Proms 2015)
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p02nm7ln.jpg
link
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (Proms 2015)
Claude Debussy
La danse de Puck (Preludes, Book 1)
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
La danse de Puck (Preludes, Book 1)
Claude Debussy
Images Book 2 No. 1: Cloches a travers les feuilles
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Images Book 2 No. 1: Cloches a travers les feuilles
Claude Debussy
Prelude à l’après-midi d’un faune
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Prelude à l’après-midi d’un faune
Claude Debussy
Book 2 Preludes (selection)
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Book 2 Preludes (selection)
Claude Debussy
Estampes for piano, no.3; Jardins sous la pluie
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Estampes for piano, no.3; Jardins sous la pluie
Claude Debussy
Chansons de Bilitis - 3 melodies for voice and piano
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Chansons de Bilitis - 3 melodies for voice and piano
Claude Debussy
Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp - final
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp - final
Claude Debussy
Minstrels - from Preludes bk 1
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Minstrels - from Preludes bk 1
Claude Debussy
Apparition
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Apparition
Claude Debussy
Children's corner for piano, The Snow is dancing
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Children's corner for piano, The Snow is dancing
Claude Debussy
Preludes - book 2, no.6; General Lavine - eccentric
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Preludes - book 2, no.6; General Lavine - eccentric
Claude Debussy
Iberia - from Images for Orchestra
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Iberia - from Images for Orchestra
Claude Debussy
Gigues
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Gigues
Claude Debussy
La Fille aux cheveux de lin
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
La Fille aux cheveux de lin
Claude Debussy
Chansons de Bilitis - 3 melodies for voice & piano (1897)
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Chansons de Bilitis - 3 melodies for voice & piano (1897)
Claude Debussy
Preludes - book 2, no.7; La Terrasse des audiences du clair de lune
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Preludes - book 2, no.7; La Terrasse des audiences du clair de lune
Claude Debussy
Jardins sous la pluie (No.3 from Estampes)
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Jardins sous la pluie (No.3 from Estampes)
Claude Debussy
Clair de lune
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqk7d.jpg
link
Clair de lune
Add music you love and enjoy it
Playlists featuring Claude Debussy
Essential Classics: Guest Choices
Essential Classics: Guest Choices
BBC Orchestras and Choirs
BBC Orchestras and Choirs
BBC Proms 2015: Katie Derham Curates
BBC Proms 2015: Katie Derham Curates
20 Years of Private Passions
20 Years of Private Passions

Latest Claude Debussy News


Claude Debussy Biography

Charting Debussy’s education tells us little about his roots. His rebellion against his teacher’s admonishment of his delight in a series of ‘forbidden’ harmonies resulted in his conclusion that ‘mon plaisir’ was the only rule: individuality and hedonism were all that mattered. His real teachers were close friends, lovers (sometimes), literature of many sorts and, perhaps, painting.

In his youth he was introduced to contemporary French poetry – particularly that of Banville, Verlaine and Mallarmé – through a relationship with an older woman. From song-writing he moved on to cantatas such as La damoiselle élue, a setting of a poem by the English Pre-Raphaelite poet-painter Rossetti. Debussy’s one outstanding operatic venture, Pelléas et Mélisande, occupied him for much of the 1890s, but in this decade he also deepened his ability to parallel the work of contemporary poets, both in songs and in the purely orchestral Prélude à L’après-midi d’un faune.

Another side of his output has often been compared to Impressionist painting. But the painter whose work is closer to Debussy’s ideas was James McNeill Whistler, whose series of works entitled Nocturnes may be connected to the composer’s orchestral triptych of 1897–9.

Never complacent and always seeking new challenges in every aspect of composition, in the new century he would turn to the evocation of entirely different places. Most celebrated is his only piece that resembles a symphony: La mer. It captures not only the sounds and rhythms of the sea, but also the changing weather and time of day. Further exploits – including the orchestral Images – would take Debussy to Spain.

Alongside these masterpieces of orchestral evocation, Debussy also developed a highly personal piano style. Perhaps the first piece to show a marked difference from his earlier piano music was the first piece from the two books of Images for piano, ‘Reflets dans l’eau’. Its rippling arpeggios, bathed in pedal, pioneered a new Impressionist piano style.

In the two books of Préludes for piano Debussy showed the infinite variety of his imagination. Enigmatically printed with the titles at the end rather than at the beginning, almost all the pieces have some kind of extramusical association: perhaps with a place, or a literary idea. The sequel to the Préludes was a set of pieces with no associations other than to themselves: a set of 12 piano Études.

Among the composer’s last works, the ballet Jeux is regarded as a highlight, and of the six planned late sonatas only three were written. Of the three unwritten sonatas, that for the extraordinary combination of oboe, horn and harpsichord must rank among the most lamented of planned works never to have reached fruition.

Profile © Richard Langham Smith

Back to artist