A 151st birthday tribute to Debussy from search engine Google has provided presents for two record companies.
On 22 August, Google placed on its main search page one of its long-running series of ‘Doodles’, an animation of a nocturnal street journey with a soundtrack of the composer’s Clair de lune, created by Google ‘Doodler’ Leon Hong.
The animation was enthusiastically received by the online community and instantly trended on Twitter.
The official UK classical singles chart released five days later showed the Naxos recording of the section from the Suite Bergamasque, performed by François-Joël Thiollier and released in 2004, zooming in at sixth position, and Michel Béroff’s account, credited to Warner, close behind at seventh.
Debussy trailed behind two works by BRITs award winner Hans Zimmer, Einaudi’s I Giorni, Pavarotti’s evergreen account of Nessun dorma and Sony’s recording of a duet from the Marriage of Figaro.
Thiollier’s performance of the suite also gained 11th place on the iTunes top-selling classical albums chart.
Anthony Anderson, managing director of Naxos distributor Select, said: ‘François-Joël Thiollier’s recording of Clair de lune has often appeared in bestseller lists since its release and it is no surprise that Google Doodle used it in its Debussy celebration. It is rewarding to see that the feature resulted in increased sales for the album and that consumers are therefore discovering lesser-known Debussy works.’
The success of Béroff’s performance did cause surprise at Warner Classics, though. After some time it was discovered that the recording was released by EMI France, passing into Warner ownership only in July as part of its acquisition of EMI and Virgin Classics.
‘At the outstart, the task of creating and coding visual imagery that does justice to the spirit of his music seemed incredibly daunting,’ said Leon Hong. ‘But, as it turned out, all I needed to do was to resurrect my trusty CD player and hit play, and the inspiration would start flooding in. I felt flickering lights, a quiet city and pouring rain set against the magical melody of Clair de lune.
‘Stylistically, I aimed for a pseudo-flat and graphic look, as influenced by an illustrator from Debussy’s time, André Hallé. And compositionally, my goal was to make a doodle that would look nice as a French wine label.’