Karstein Djupdal >> Debussy >> recordings

Recordings of Debussy playing the piano

It is not very well known that Debussy made recordings of himself playing the piano. He recorded several of his own pieces on piano rolls, to be played on a mechanical Welte Mignon player piano. The Welte "reproducing system" could capture the performance of the pianist, and reproduce it more or less accurately, complete with dynamics and pedalling. The piano rolls are now in the Simonton collection at the University of Southern California. There would probably also exist some copies of the rolls elsewhere.

The piano rolls

Roll no. 2733
  • Childrens Corner: Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum
  • Jimbo's Lullaby
  • Serenade for the Doll
  • The Snow is Dancing
  • The Little Shepherd
  • Golliwog's Cake Walk
Roll no. 2734
  • D'un cahier d'esquisses
Roll no. 2735
  • Estampes: La soirée dans Grenade
Roll no. 2736
  • La plus que lente
Roll no. 2738
  • Préludes I: Danseuses de Delphes
  • La cathédrale engloutie
  • La Danse de Puck
Roll no. 2739
  • Préludes I: Minstrels
  • Le vent dans la plaine

I know of two CD-recordings made of the rolls:

Acoustic recordings

Acoustic recordings are of course more interesting when we want to get an impression of Debussy's playing, since piano rolls cannot be completely trusted to faithfully reproduce what the pianist played. Unfortunately there are not many acoustic recordings of Debussy. He did however make a recording accompanying the singer Mary Garden for the G & T (Gramophone and Typewriter Co.) in 1904. These recordings can also be found on the CD Pierian 0001.

The songs they recorded: