1. Life

2. Selected Discography


Claude DebussyClaude Debussy (St Germain-en-Laye, 22 August 1862 – Paris, 25 March 1918), French composer. He was one of the leading composers of his generation. His innovative musical language had deep influence over the new generation of composers, notably Béla Bartók and Olivier Messiaen.

Born to a modest family, Debussy never attended a regular school, but nonetheless he entered the Conservatoire de Paris in 1872 as a piano student. After giving up the idea to embark on a career as a virtuoso, he devoted himself to composition. The Conservatoire was notoriously famous for its conformism and Debussy strove to compose following traditional rules and models. In 1879, he composed his first set of mélodies on texts by Alfred de Musset. He wrote mélodies throughout his life, setting to music texts written by different authors and also his own.

In the summer 1880, Debussy thought the children of Nadezhda von Meck, Tchaikovsky’s patron, and he joined her in Moscow twice in the following years.

In 1884, after a failure the previous year, Debussy won the Prix de Rome with the cantata L’enfant prodigue and spent two years in Rome. It was after his return that he was called an “Impressionist” composer for the first time, with reference to Printemps, but it was only after La mer that the term was regularly applied to him. However, Debussy was rather influenced by the Symbolists and his opera Pelléas et Mélisande is actually the last manifestation of French symbolism.

Debussy completed the first version of his opera in 1895, but the premiere took place only in 1902. Considered a reaction to Wagnerism, Pelléas was coldly received by the critics, but the musical world was profoundly impressed.

In the meanwhile, Debussy became a critic himself, writing for the Revue blanche. He was then in a position to spread some of his unconventional ideas. As for his compositions, they were usually labelled with the term debussysme, which had an ambiguous meaning.

In 1908, Debussy made his debut as a conductor with his work La mer, which was more successful than ever before. In 1909, accepting Fauré’s invitation, he became a member of the advisory board of the Conservatoire.

In the first year of the war, Debussy did not compose very much. The symptoms of the illness that caused his death appeared few years before, but this did not prevent him from writing in quick succession the Cello Sonata, En blanc et noir, the Etudes, and the Sonata for flute, viola and harp in 1915. In March 1917 he finished his Violin Sonata, but he could not complete three more sonatas. In September, he made his last concert appearance and died of cancer in March 1918.

Among Debussy’s most popular orchestral works, there are Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1894), Nocturnes (1897–1899) and Images (1905–1912). The two books of Préludes and of Études are some of his most admired piano works, together with Children’s Corner (1906-8) and the Suite bergamasque (c1890). La mer (1903–1905) is a cycle of three symphonic sketches that, in Debussy’s thought, were an alternative to the old-fashioned genre of the symphony. Pelléas et Mélisande is his only opera.


Pelléas et Mélisande

Debussy Pélleas et Mélisande Ewing Le Roux Abbado◊ 1990, Henry, Alliot-Lugaz, Cachemaille, Thau / Chœur de l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal / Orchestre symphonique de Montréal / Charles Dutoit View details / Buy from Amazon

◊1991, Ewing, Le Roux, van Dam, Courtis, Ludwig / Wiener Philharmoniker / Claudio Abbado View details / Buy from Amazon

◊ 2017: Kozena, Gerhaher, Finley, Selig / London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus / Simon Rattle, conductor View details / Buy from Amazon

Piano Works

Barenboim Debussy

Daniel Barenboim – Debussy

Estampes – Clair de lune – La plus que lente – Elégie – Préludes I
Deutsche Grammophon, 2018
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Stephen Hough Debussy

Stephen Hough – Debussy

Images I & II, L’isle joyeuse, Estampes, La plus que lent, Children’s Corner
Hyperion, 2018
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Debussy Préludes II En blanc et noir Maurizio PolliniDebussy: Préludes II

Maurizio Pollini
En blanc et noir
With Daniele Pollini
Deutsche Grammophon, 2018
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Menahem Pressler Clair de lune. Debussy, Fauré, RavelClair de lune

Debussy, Fauré, Ravel
Menahem Pressler, piano
Deutsche Grammophon, 2018
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Orchestral and Vocal Works

Claude Debussy – Sonates, Danses et Rhapsodies

Berrod, Berthaud, Langlamet, Lively, Lucas, Pernoo, Prost, Samouil, Wagschal
String quintet of the Berliner Philharmoniker
Indesens, 2018
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Debussy Fauré TicciatiDebussy: La Mer, Ariettes Oubliées

Fauré: Pelléas et Mélisande
Magdalena Kožená, mezzosoprano
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Robin Ticciati, conductor
Linn Records, 2017
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Anna Moffo Jean Casadesus Songs of DebussySongs of Debussy

Anna Moffo, soprano
Jean Casadesus, piano
RCA, 1971 (2015)
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The Debussy Edition Deutsche Grammophon◊ The Debussy Edition (18 CDs Box Set): Various Artists, including Pierre Boulez, Zoltán Kocsis, Krystian Zimerman, Martha Argerich, Claudio Abbado & more / Deutsche Grammophon, 2012 View details / Buy from Amazon

Claude Debussy – Orchestral Works: The Centenary Edition (26 CDs Box Set) / Various Artists, including: Abbado, Boulez, Barenboim, Pollini / Deutsche Grammophon, 2018 View details / Buy from Amazon