Claude Debussy died in 1918, on the age of 55: nonetheless fairly younger for a composer, and nonetheless fairly early within the historical past of sound recording. Which means, a bit over a century later, we now have a terrific many recordings of Debussy’s music, however treasured few recordings of Debussy’s music performed by the person himself. As soon as he accompanied opera singer Mary Backyard within the efficiency of three mélodies from Ariettes oubliées, his cycle primarily based on the poetry of Paul Verlaine. These recordings have been made in 1904, and sound it. However in his closing years, Debussy additionally preserved his taking part in with an outwardly extra primitive expertise that nonetheless sounds far more pleasing at this time: the piano roll.
Designed to be fed into and routinely reproduced by specifically engineered devices, the piano roll — an early type of the music media we’ve loved over the previous few generations — was commercially pioneered by the American firm M. Welte & Sons. “It’s unattainable to achieve a larger perfection of copy than that of the Welte equipment,” Debussy as soon as wrote to Edwin Welte, co-inventor of the household firm’s Welte-Mignon Reproducing Piano.
The fourteen items Debussy recorded for Welte embrace the Symbolist- and Impressionist-inspired “La soirée dans Grenade,” beforehand featured right here on Open Tradition, in addition to his most beloved and extensively heard work, “Clair de lune.”
Instantly recognizable in isolation, the additionally Verlaine-based “Clair de lune” constitutes one of many 4 actions of the Suite bergamasque. Your entire piece was first revealed in 1905, however Debussy had truly begun its composition fifteen years earlier than that. The still-frequent use of the third motion in in style tradition has, at this level, made it troublesome to listen to the important qualities of the piece itself; underneath such circumstances, who higher to convey these qualities out than the composer himself? The video on the high of the submit presents a copy of “Clair de lune” from the piano roll that Debussy made 109 years in the past, the following neatest thing to having him on the piano. Lovers marvel what Debussy would have written had he lived longer; listening to this, they could additionally marvel what he would have recorded had he caught round for the hi-fi age.
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Based mostly in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and tradition. His tasks embrace the ebook The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by means of Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The Metropolis in Cinema. Observe him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Faceboook.