Semester of Graduation

Summer 2018


Master of Music (MM)


Music and Dramatic Arts

Document Type



Between 1910 and 1912 Claude Debussy recorded twelve of his solo piano works for the player piano company Welte-Mignon. Although Debussy frequently instructed his students to play his music exactly as written, his own recordings are rife with artistic liberties and interpretive freedom. Interestingly, many of the interpretive gestures that Debussy employs in these recordings are consistent with playing techniques utilized by French Baroque keyboardists. This paper will situate Debussy’s own performance in this Baroque playing style. I will first discuss the recording technology used by Welte-Mignon to establish the reliability of these recordings. By studying harpsichord manuals, I will then point out similarities between the highly stylized playing of seventeenth and eighteenth keyboardists and Debussy’s recordings. Finally, by comparing Debussy’s playing with later twentieth-century recordings of the same works, I will examine trends toward cleaner performances and less artistic liberties.



Committee Chair

Shanahan, Daniel

Included in

Musicology Commons