The French Composer Claude Debussy, who lived from 1862 until 1918, can be seen as one of the biggest French composers that lived.
Debussy, who was a pianist from the origin, composed many pieces for other instruments such as the Flute, Harp, Violin etc. Next to these separate instruments for which he wrote his chamber-music, he also wrote for orchestra. These works include for example tone-poems like La-Mer, Ballets like 'Jeux' and the opera 'Pelleas et Melisande'.
During his studies, he was often failing his harmony exams because he didn't like to take the textbooks on harmony in a dogmatic way. He would irritate his fellow musicians with his daring harmonies with which he left his footprint in the tradition of the European classical music.
Living in the same era of Impressionism in France, one can quickly find and make the connection between the painters or literature and the music. When he talked about his famous L'Apres-midi d'un Faune, which is an orchestral work based upon the poem of Mallarme, he called it himself an impression or an illustration of the work. Even though he used those words, he did not like to be called an impressionist. He preferred his music to be called 'a dream from which one takes the veil' ('een culturele historie van Frankrijk' Jelle Noorman P.193)
It is very commonly known that Debussy was famous for his improvisations which he made on the piano. One can find this back in his compositions. The music that he made was more free than any other composer before him and he did not take the forms and traditional composition-styles into consideration like fellow composers. Due to his use of harmonies and ideas, he was one of the biggest influences upon generations of composers after him