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Debussy: The Complete Works

'Modern music begins here' - Pierre Boulez

One of history's most captivating and inventive musical geniuses, Claude Debussy, exercises an influence unmatched by any other French composer.

Warner Classics' new thirty-three CD set - the most complete recorded collection of his music ever assembled - comprises all of his known works and includes six specially-made first recordings.

Debussy: The Complete Works, released by Warner Classics on 5 January 2018, stands as the most complete collection ever made of recordings of Debussy's music. On 33 CDs, the box set comprises all of the French composer's known works, including six pieces in first recordings made specially for this edition. The box set will be available as Standard Download and on all streaming platforms.

Drawing on Warner Classics' unrivalled catalogue, the collection marks the one hundredth anniversary of Debussy's death, which falls on 25 March 2018. The recordings, selected for their artistic quality and their authenticity of spirit, have been compiled in collaboration with the world-renowned Debussy expert Denis Herlin, who has made several critical editions of Debussy's music for the composer's publishing house, Durand. The box even includes recordings made by Debussy himself - he was a superb pianist. Many other distinguished names are among the performers, including a suitably impressive contingent from France.

The French/Francophone artists include: pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Bertrand Chamayou, Aldo Ciccolini, Jean-Philippe Collard and Samson François; instrumentalists Renaud Capuçon, Emmanuel Pahud and Quatuor Ebène; singers Roberto Alagna, Natalie Dessay, Karina Gauvin, Véronique Gens, Philippe Jaroussky, Mady Mesplé, Gérard Souzay and José van Dam, and conductors André Cluytens, Jean Martinon, Michel Plasson and François-Xavier Roth. Among the other major artists are Martha Argerich, Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, Barbara Hendricks, Daniel Barenboim, Carlo Maria Giulini, Kent Nagano and Simon Rattle.

This set complements the many much-loved masterpieces that have shaped Debussy's reputation with works that remain lesser-known or which have even remained undiscovered until now. It includes transcriptions/orchestrations of Debussy's works by other composers that Debussy himself approved, and also Debussy's own transcriptions of works by other composers, some of them previously unrecorded. Debussy himself can be heard accompanying the Scottish soprano Mary Garden (his original Mélisande) in the Ariettes oubliées and a short extract from Pelléas et Mélisande, and in various piano works, recorded for the gramophone and in the form of piano rolls. The recording of the mystery play with music, Le Martyre de saint Sébastien, conducted by André Cluytens, is the only recording to present Gabriele d'Annunzio's complete text.

Over the century since his death, Debussy has exercised a powerful influence on classical composers such as Ravel, Puccini, Bartók, Messiaen, Ligeti and Dutilleux, jazz musicians - Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock, for example - and composers of film music. In the digital age, he has become one of the most-streamed classical composers.

Born near Paris and trained at the Paris Conservatoire, Debussy lived through a period of change, rich in cultural activity as Romanticism made the transition to Modernism. While always seeking - and finding - something new, Debussy consistently gave expression to a distinctive musical personality. His music, notable for its sensual beauty, colour and adventurous harmonies and sonorities, often suggests a freedom of form and expression, yet it is also characterised by discipline and restraint.

He composed major works in a great variety of genres: piano music, chamber music, song, orchestral music, ballet music, choral works, opera and music for the theatre. While commentators often conveniently describe him as an 'Impressionist' composer, Debussy himself did not like the term, and any analogy with Impressionist painting is relevant to only a small proportion of his works. An important critic and writer, he assimilated and transformed a diversity of inspiration: French composers of the previous generation (eg Chabrier and Massenet) and earlier eras (such as Couperin and Rameau); Russian composers (eg Rimsky-Korsakov); Indonesian gamelan music (which he heard at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1889, when the Eiffel Tower was opened); writers of the Symbolist movement (eg Mallarmé, Verlaine and Maeterlinck), and the paintings and prints of such Japanese artists as Hokusai (1760-1849), whose works feature on the packaging of Debussy: The Complete Works. Debussy also assimilated - albeit reluctantly - the pervasive influence of Wagner: for instance, his only completed opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, is a kind of reinvention of Tristan und Isolde.

Debussy: The Complete Works, including piano works, chamber music, orchestral works, songs and choral works, is now available on Parlophone Records 0190295736750, with notes in English, French and German.


Posted: 6 January 2018

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