Claude Debussy is a renowned pianist and composer of high repute. He was undoubtedly one of the finest composers in French music history. He is known today as a pioneer of music impressionism. This article discusses the biography of Claude Debussy.

Family Background: Born in 1862 in Saint Germain-en-laye, France, though his family had no money, they lived together. Debussy was the first of five children. He rarely talks about his childhood because he did not enjoy most his childhood days with his family; faith had other plans for him with respect to his innate talent.

Childhood: Debussy’s affinity for piano was noticed at an early age of 7. Consequently, he began to take piano lessons. He enrolled at the Paris Conservatory at the age of 11. His talent did not go unnoticed as his fame spread through the nuke and cranny of his immediate environment.

His colleagues marvel at his dexterity on the piano; though some of them criticized his innovative musical mind, he made acquaintance with few of them. Ernest Guiraud and Cesar Frank are some of his close friends at the conservatory. Debussy studied at the conservatory for 12 years; though his initial plan was to major in piano, he later diversified to composing.

Early life as a music composer: In 1880, Debussy was employed by Nadezhda Von Meck to teach piano to her children; a job that saw him travel across Europe courtesy of Nadezha. Nadezha had also earlier supported Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, a renowned Russian composer. In his years of European exploration Debussy gained both adequate exposures particularly in Russia which greatly influenced his works as a composer.

Recognition: In 1884 Debussy enrolled in a competition for composers tagged “Cantata L’Enfant Prodigue (The Prodigal Child) in the prix de Rome. He won the top prize with a scholarship to study for three years in Rome. While in Rome, Debussy developed interest in the music of German composer, Richard Wagner. Tristan und Isolde, one if Wagner’s best particularly caught Debussy’s attention.

Upon his return to Paris in 1887, Debussy attended the Paris world exposition where he heard a Javanese gamelan- a combination of a variety of bells and other percussion instruments; a style Debussy later incorporated into his already unique style. The result was a novel and more unique sound.

Notable Compositions: Debussy’s early master pieces include: Annette’s Oubliees (1888), Prelude to the afternoon of a Faun (completed in 1892 and first performed in 1894), Quartet (1893). In 1895, the sensational Pelleas et Melisande was completed and was first performed in 1902. Though the harmonic prowess reflected through Pelleas was met with a mixture of joy and criticism, it only him more popular. Debussy was extensively recognized for Pelleas and prelude as he became a renowned figure in French music for the next decade.


He also wrote memorable works such as La mer (1905). In the same year, his suite bergamasque was published. It was regarded as Debussy’s top master peices. It comprised of Prelude, Menuet, Clair de lune and passepied. Ochestral works such as Jeux and images were written in 1913.

Later life: In 1900, Debussy was diagnosed with rectal cancer; though he continued with his normal activities, the illness weakened him with each passing day. He died in 1918.


Claude Debussy has contributed immensely not just to French music but music generally. His skillfully structured compositions will remain relevant for centuries to come.

The Best of Debussy