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Exploring the Great Composers

Great Composers in Words and Music is a new Naxos series that consists of mini-biographies read by acclaimed actor-narrators and illustrated with musical excerpts. The biographies, which are full of fascinating detail and anecdote, have been written in a highly approachable style by Davinia Caddy.

Lucy Scott reads the latest release in the series that explores the life and music of Claude Debussy. The first three issues in the edition were released in May and are narrated by Leighton Pugh. They cover the lives and musical legacies of J. S. Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Further issues are scheduled for release throughout the remainder of the year.


Claude Debussy is regarded by many as the quintessential French composer, with music that invited both warm applause and frosty criticism in his day. While our ears no longer hear him as controversial, his works heralded the dawn of an artistic period founded on innovation and experiment, and a desire to break with the past in search of new expressive means. With never a dull moment, Debussy went from being a musical misfit at the Paris Conservatoire to bohemian life amongst the Symbolist poets with involvement in some scandalous love affairs. The transformative effect of pieces such as the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune eventually saw him awarded the Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur in 1903. The narrative is illustrated with musical excerpts from Children’s Corner, String Quartet in G minor, Images, Nocturnes and Pelléas et Mélisande, among many others.

About the author and narrators

Author Davinia Caddy studied music at the University of Cambridge. Her books include The Ballets Russes and Beyond: Music and Dance in Belle-Époque Paris (Cambridge University Press, 2012), Musicology and Dance: Historical and Critical Perspectives (Cambridge University Press, 2020, co-edited with Maribeth Clark), and How to Hear Classical Music, a contemporary guide to the Western classical repertoire written for the general public (Awa Press, 2013).

Lucy Scott trained at London's Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Her stage credits include Emma (Tricycle Theatre), Search and Destroy (New End Theatre) and Mansfield Park (Chichester Festival). Her television credits include Pride and Prejudice (BBC), Rosemary and Thyme (ITV) and Spooks (BBC). Her many titles for Naxos AudioBooks include Balzac’s Cousin Bette, Eliot’s Romola, Fontane’s Effi Briest and Richardson’s Clarissa.

Leighton Pugh trained at the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art. His radio work includes the plays Murder by the Book and Scenes from Provincial Life for BBC Radio 4 and the voice of Heinrich von Kleist in the BBC Radio 3 documentary The Tragical Adventure of Heinrich von Kleist. Leighton has appeared in five productions for the National Theatre and his recordings for Naxos AudioBooks include The Diary of Samuel Pepys, and Zola’s Germinal, Nana and L’Assommoir.

The ‘Life and Works’ series written and narrated by Jeremy Siepmann
‘The books are very well designed, with biographies, historical background, a graded listening plan, recommended readings, a chronology, a glossary and the full spoken text … These are expertly presented, richly documented productions.’
Gramophone on Life & Works: Beethoven
8.558051-54 (4 Discs)
Includes 116-page booklet with detailed historical background
8.558024-27 (4 Discs)
Includes 184-page booklet with detailed historical background
8.558071-74 (4 Discs)
Includes 136-page booklet with detailed historical background
8.558101-04 (4 Discs)
Includes 136-page booklet with detailed historical background
8.558091-94 (4 Discs)
Includes 148-page booklet with detailed historical background
8.558061-64 (4 Discs)
Includes 128-page booklet with detailed historical background
Classical Music Books for Children by Genevieve Helsby
With featured guide, conductor Marin Alsop, you’ll even know your heckelphone from your sackbut and your tom-tom from your tam-tam – all by spending hours of fun with words, pictures and music tracks.
My First Classical Music Book
ISBN: 978-1-84379-118-8
‘Another cause for celebration… an exuberant and fascinating introduction to instruments, melodies and composers alike.’
Daily Telegraph
My First Piano Book
ISBN: 978-1-78198-029-3
‘The presentation is such fun and children will really the book; a great one for piano teachers to have to enthuse their pupils. …A very special book.’
My First Orchestra Book
ISBN: 978-1-84379-770-8
A delightfully colourful introduction to the orchestra, aimed to fire the imagination of children aged 4–9 years.

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