CD "Claude Debussy, The Composer as Pianist"
By Mark Reinhart
The Pierian Recording Society is soon to release their first CD which
is Claude Debussy, The Composer as Pianist. This CD contains all of
Debussy's known recordings: all of the Welte-Mignon recordings and the
78's recorded for Gramophone & Typewriter (G & T) in 1904.
The Welte-Mignon recordings were all prepared by Ken Caswell using his
personal 1923 Feurich Welte-Mignon piano in his home. The individual
pieces were recorded with painstaking attention to detail over a period
of several years so that Caswell could achieve the precise Welte-Mignon
settings for most satisfying performance of each piece. Among the
pieces that Debussy recorded were several preludes from Book I and the
entire Coin des Enfant (Children's Corner Suite).
There are several aspects which render this CD as superior to any
Debussy records or CD previously released. The first point is Ken
Caswell's attention to correct tempi for the recordings. This may seem
trivial but a previous CD recording of the Welte-Mignon, which included
a couple of the Debussy pieces, I consider to be unlistenable, which is
what makes this new CD such a welcome addition. The second point is
the finely restored piano and Welte-Mignon action carefully regulated
for each roll to achieve the best possible results.
The G & T recordings from 1904 display Claude Debussy playing
accompaniment to Mary Garden's soprano. The G & T recordings are
intriguing but do not satisfy. The poor recording technology of the
time just do not capture the pianist as I had hoped. There is a
harmonic oscillation due to the inferior G & T recording technology
that I find annoying. This is no reflection on the CD. The CD does
enable us to hear acoustically Debussy but I found little insight into
my own knowledge of Debussy in them. If anything, the G & T discs
illustrate why the Welte-Mignon is much more viable as a medium for
listening to performers from the first part of the 20th century.
This CD is also valuable for those who have considered buying a
reproducing piano but are uncertain about which system is right for
their needs. If owning recordings by Debussy has any bearing, then it
is necessity that a Welte-Mignon piano be purchased as Debussy did not
record for any other reproducing piano firm. This CD is a great
opportunity to preview what one can enjoy through the medium of the
This Pierian 0001 CD will be available in mid-September in record
stores such as Tower Records, as well as online via Amazon.com.
I recommend it for anyone who has an interest in Claude Debussy.
(Message sent Thu 7 Sep 2000, 22:32:10 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)