Claude Debussy
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1862-08-22
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Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy Biography (BBC)

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 Biography (Wikipedia)

(Achille) Claude Debussy (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) was a French composer. He is sometimes seen as the first Impressionist composer, although he vigorously rejected the term. He was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Born to a family of modest means and little cultural involvement, Debussy showed enough musical talent to be admitted at the age of ten to France's leading music college, the Conservatoire de Paris. He originally studied the piano, but found his vocation in innovative composition, despite the disapproval of the Conservatoire's conservative professors. He took many years to develop his mature style, and was nearly 40 when he achieved international fame in 1902 with the only opera he completed, Pelléas et Mélisande.

Debussy's orchestral works include Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (1894), Nocturnes (1897–1899) and Images (1905–1912). His music was to a considerable extent a reaction against Wagner and the German musical tradition. He regarded the classical symphony as obsolete and sought an alternative in his "symphonic sketches", La mer (1903–1905). His piano works include two books of Préludes and two of Études. Throughout his career he wrote mélodies based on a wide variety of poetry, including his own. He was greatly influenced by the Symbolist poetic movement of the later 19th century. A small number of works, including the early La Damoiselle élue and the late Le Martyre de saint Sébastien have important parts for chorus. In his final years, he focused on chamber music, completing three of six planned sonatas for different combinations of instruments.

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Claude Debussy Performances & Interviews


Claude Debussy Tracks

Claude Debussy
Danse, L. 69 (Tarantelle Styrienne)
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Danse, L. 69 (Tarantelle Styrienne)

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Claude Debussy
Nocturnes for orchestra
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Nocturnes for orchestra
Claude Debussy
Danse, L. 77 (Tarantelle Styrienne)
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Danse, L. 77 (Tarantelle Styrienne)
Claude Debussy
Feux d'artifice (Preludes, Book 1)
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Feux d'artifice (Preludes, Book 1)
Claude Debussy
La cathédrale engloutie
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La cathédrale engloutie
Claude Debussy
String Quartet in G minor, Op 10 (3rd mvt)
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String Quartet in G minor, Op 10 (3rd mvt)
Claude Debussy
Nuages (Nocturnes)
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Nuages (Nocturnes)
Claude Debussy
Hommage à Rameau - no 2 from Images (Set 1)
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Hommage à Rameau - no 2 from Images (Set 1)
Claude Debussy
Nocturnes (No 3, 'Sirènes')
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Nocturnes (No 3, 'Sirènes')
Claude Debussy
Mouvement (Images, Set 1)
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Mouvement (Images, Set 1)
Claude Debussy
Reverie
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Reverie
Claude Debussy
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
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Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
Claude Debussy
Minstrels, Prelude No 12, Book 1
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Minstrels, Prelude No 12, Book 1
Claude Debussy
La plus que lente
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La plus que lente
Claude Debussy
Chansons de Bilitis - 3 melodies for voice & piano (1897)
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Chansons de Bilitis - 3 melodies for voice & piano (1897)
Claude Debussy
Fetes (Nocturnes, No.2)
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Fetes (Nocturnes, No.2)
Claude Debussy
Danse sacrée et danse profane
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Danse sacrée et danse profane
Claude Debussy
Jeux de vagues (La mer)
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Jeux de vagues (La mer)
Claude Debussy
La Cathedrale engloutie (Preludes Book 1), orch Henry Wood
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La Cathedrale engloutie (Preludes Book 1), orch Henry Wood
Claude Debussy
Jardins sous la pluie (Estampes)
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Jardins sous la pluie (Estampes)
Claude Debussy
Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum (Children's Corner)
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Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum (Children's Corner)
Claude Debussy
Premiere rapsodie arr. for clarinet and orchestra (orig. clarinet and piano)
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Premiere rapsodie arr. for clarinet and orchestra (orig. clarinet and piano)
Claude Debussy
Rêverie
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Rêverie
Claude Debussy
Rondes de Printemps, 'Images
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Rondes de Printemps, 'Images
Claude Debussy
Violin Sonata in G minor
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Violin Sonata in G minor
Claude Debussy
La plus que lente (arr. orchestra)
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La plus que lente (arr. orchestra)
Claude Debussy
Petite suite for piano duet
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Petite suite for piano duet
Claude Debussy
Les fées sont d'exquises danseuses (Preludes, Book 2)
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Les fées sont d'exquises danseuses (Preludes, Book 2)
Claude Debussy
La Flûte de Pan (Syrinx)
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La Flûte de Pan (Syrinx)
Claude Debussy
Tarantelle styrienne
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Tarantelle styrienne
Claude Debussy
Ariettes oubliées
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Ariettes oubliées
Claude Debussy
Gigues (Images)
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Gigues (Images)
Claude Debussy
Gigues - from Images for Orchestra
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Gigues - from Images for Orchestra
Claude Debussy
Arabesque No 1 in E major
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Arabesque No 1 in E major
Claude Debussy
Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum
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Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum

Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum

Performer
Yola Kwok
Claude Debussy
Premiere rapsodie
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Premiere rapsodie
Claude Debussy
Preludes, Book 1 - La cathedrale engloutie (orch. Henry Wood)
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Preludes, Book 1 - La cathedrale engloutie (orch. Henry Wood)
Claude Debussy
Les collines d'Anacapri (Preludes, Book 1)
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Les collines d'Anacapri (Preludes, Book 1)
Claude Debussy
Violin Sonata in G minor
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Violin Sonata in G minor
Claude Debussy
Jardins sous la pluie (Estampes)
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Jardins sous la pluie (Estampes)
Claude Debussy
Tarantelle styrienne
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Tarantelle styrienne
Claude Debussy
Arabesque No 1
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Arabesque No 1
Claude Debussy
L'isle joyeuse
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L'isle joyeuse
Claude Debussy
Poissons d'or (Images, Set 2)
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Poissons d'or (Images, Set 2)
Claude Debussy
Jeux de vagues (La mer)
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Jeux de vagues (La mer)
Claude Debussy
Two Arabesques
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Two Arabesques
Claude Debussy
Preludes book 2 no.5 - 'Bruyeres'
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Preludes book 2 no.5 - 'Bruyeres'
Claude Debussy
La puerta del vino (Preludes, Book 2)
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La puerta del vino (Preludes, Book 2)
Claude Debussy
En bateau (Petite suite)
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En bateau (Petite suite)
Claude Debussy
L'Isle Joyeuse
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L'Isle Joyeuse

L'Isle Joyeuse

Performer
Jurate Karosaite
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