Now THAT’s how you make someone else’s music your own.
Who was Debussy?
Claude Debussy (1862–1918) was a 20th-century French composer and one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music.
Life and Music
- Claude Debussy was born on the 22nd August 1862 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.
- In 1880, Tchaikovsky commented on one of Debussy's early pieces: "It is a very pretty piece, but it is much too short. Not a single idea is expressed fully, the form is terribly shriveled, and it lacks unity."
- It was not until 1894, aged 32, that Debussy completed the first piece to truly declare his independence of thought: Prelude a l'Apres-midi d'un Faune, a highly innovative piece inspired by a poem of Stephane Mallarmé.
- After his first successes, Debussy began serious work on his opera Pelleas et Melisande (completed in 1902) and the three orchestral Nocturnes (completed in 1899).
- Debussy entered a new creative phase in 1903 with La Mer, completed while staying in Eastbourne, where he observed that "the sea behaves with British politeness".
- The success of Pelleas et Melisande's long-delayed premiere in 1902 made Debussy a celebrity. He subsequently began a passionate affair with Emma Bardac, one-time mistress of Gabriel Faure, whereupon his wife unsuccessfully attempted to shoot herself.
- In 1914, just as he was at the height of his powers, Debussy discovered he had cancer. An operation left him so debilitated that he composed nothing for over a year.
- Before his death on March 25th 1918 in Paris, he completed one final masterwork, the Violin Sonata.
Did you know?
Debussy's obvious talent for the piano led to his winning a place at the junior department of the Paris Conservatoire in 1872 when he was only 10 years old.
Debussy: 20 facts about the great composer
Discover Claude Debussy’s best music, and find out facts about his life in celebration of the 150th anniversary of his birth.
Listen here to Classic FM presenters' favourite calming classical pieces.
"Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art." Claude Debussy
There's a moment of pure harmonic inspiration in Debussy's Clair de lune. And it's so, so simple.
Grand, peaceful and mysterious, this is music to transport you.
What's the best classical music for your in-flight meal? BA have decided…
After Google featured Debussy's dreamy Clair de lune as an animated Google Doodle, sales of the track have soared on iTunes
This week John Brunning's featured album is Debussy: 24 Preludes performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra
This week, John Brunning introduces a new name to Classic FM – the British pianist Fabio d’Andrea.
Top Debussy Pieces
La Mer (3)
- Conductor: Myung-Whun Chung
- Ensemble: Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra
- Record Label: Deutsche Grammophon
- Catalog: 4764498
Preludes Book 1 (8)
- Conductor: Timothy Redmond
- Ensemble: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
- Soloists: Ophelie Gaillard
- Record Label: Atlas Realisations/Harmonia Mundi
- Catalog: AP 001
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