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 Search Beat > Arts > Music > Styles > Classical Music > Featured Composer > Claude Debussy


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Debussy (1862-1918) is arguably the most visual and literary of composers. His music is the aural equivalent of the works of Impressionists such as Manet and Mallarmé. And like them, under the deceptive pastel shadings, Debussy explores arresting new tonalities and levitating harmonies. Here are his essential recordings.
recommended recordings
Debussy: Images, etc / Boulez, Cleveland Orchestra

Composer: Claude Debussy
Conductor: Pierre Boulez
Ensemble: Cleveland Orchestra
Uni/Deutsche Grammophon - #35766 / February 16, 1993

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Pierre Boulez recorded all of Debussy's major orchestral works for Sony, and those generally excellent performances are still available at mid-price. Like so many conductors Boulez has mellowed somewhat with age--and unlike most conductors, he is the first to admit it. His earlier performances were characterized by an analytical clarity that some found fascinating and uniquely compelling, and which left others cold. These new versions preserve the precision of his earlier ones, but find room for...Read more


  Debussy: Images 1 & 2, Children's Corner / Michelangeli

Composer: Claude Debussy
Performer: Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli
Uni/Deutsche Grammophon - #15372 / July 7, 1987

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This album, originally released about 1973, is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard. Twenty five years later I still cannot believe that one man with ten fingers could produce the sounds Michelangeli coaxes and caresses from the keyboard. The blending of techinique and emotion is so balanced and seamless it's as if he becomes one with the piano and the music. "Reflections in the Water" and "Poissons D'Or" shimmer and the climax in "Movement" will raise the hair on the back of your neck. "Homage a Rameau" is stunning as Michelangeli builds and layers sonorities. "Children's Corner" is given a warm and lovely interpretation, with "The Snow Is Dancing" a particular highlight. Whenever I hear it I am all of a sudden catching snowflakes on my tongue in a perfect winter wonderland. The recording is flawless and the transfer to CD retains all the warmth and excitement of the original.

Debussy: Clair de Lune, etc / Philippe Entremont
Composer: Claude Debussy
Performer: Philippe Entremont
Sony Classics - #48174 / June 2, 1992

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Philippe Entremont was really taken for granted as a pianist, both in the U.S. and in his native France. A favorite with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and a staple pianist of the 1960s Columbia catalogue, Entremont displayed many of the finer points of the French school: precision, proportion, tight rhythm, and a colorful touch. This Debussy collection, a real bargain at budget price, features all of his strengths, in music which belongs in every piano-music collection. His...Read more


Debussy: Pelleas & Melisande / Desormiere, Joachim, et al
Composer: Claude Debussy
Conductor: Roger Desormire
Performer: Leila Ben Sedira, Paul Cabanel, et al.
Ensemble: Symphony Orchestra, Yvonne GouvernŽ Chorus
Grammofono 2000 (Ita) - #78727 / July 22, 1997

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Even seasoned operaphiles may not have heard of anybody on this recording. Made in wartime France, this first, complete Pelléas et Mélisande captures brief, shining moments among performers whose postwar careers were limited (conductor Roger Desormière, for one, had a stroke in the early 1950s). Yet anyone who loves the opera must have this recording, which has an unmistakable radiance. Heard in sound quality remarkably good for the 1950s, these performers--including...Read more


Debussy: The Complete Works for Piano / Walter Gieseking
Composer: Claude Debussy
Conductor: Kurt Schršder
Performer: Walter Gieseking
Ensemble: Hessian Radio Orchestra Frankfurt
Emd/Emi Classics - #65855 / January 21, 1997

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These classic performances belong in the collection of anyone who cares about Debussy's piano music. Walter Gieseking's career was a troubled one--his pandering to the Nazi party cast a shadow over his last years, but the greatest irony of all was that this German nationalist turned out to be the greatest exponent of French music of his era. His Debussy playing marries an effortlessly subtle control of the keyboard to a real sense of fantasy. The music truly shimmers in his hands, and despite...Read more


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