Roy Howat’s Debussy Editions

For the book Debussy in proportion ( or, or Roy Howat’s other Debussy writings, please click the Books tab.  For his Debussy editions read on:

Roy Howat’s editions of Debussy piano music for the Œuvres Complètes de Claude Debussy (published by Durand, Paris) are now available in budget reissues, as well as their original collected hardback volumes. Click here and scroll down for a complete list (the budget paperbacks start just after halfway down).

These quality budget volumes are now replacing Durand’s old Debussy editions. Distribution in the UK is by United Music Publishers, in the US by Hal Leonard (insist if necessary: they don’t always know what they have), and at very good prices.

View on

These go far beyond other urtext editions in their fidelity to and range of sources used (forgive any immodesty, but it’s true).  The first page of the first Prelude alone supplies four chords absent in all other editions, the fourth Prelude restores a bar missing in earlier editions, and various other Preludes show related editorial suggestions (unique to this edition). The edition also pays exceptionally close attention to Debussy’s manuscript stemming and placing of dynamics, sometimes departing from standard typesetting rules when Debussy’s manuscript layout graphically conveys the music’s polyphonic and structural lines.  The consistent bass downstems throughout the Image ‘Mouvement’ are a particularly graphic example, as is the meticulous placing of dynamics against specific voices in the Prelude ‘Des pas sur la neige’.  Probably the most telling single correction is that of tempo and metric equivalence in ‘La Cathédrale engloutie’, crucially assuring the piece’s rhythmic flow and architectural coherence.

‘Howat’s editorial work throughout is meticulous in the extreme… As Howat is equally renowned as an interpreter with an encyclopædic knowledge of the minutiae of Debussy’s piano music and as a musicologist/analyst, he represents an ideal editor for this series.’  Robert Orledge, The Musical Times.

Other Debussy Urtexts or critical editions by Roy Howat

Jane, song for voice & piano (1st publication, with commentary). Theodore Presser (1982).

Etude retrouvée for piano (different version of the Etude ‘Pour les arpèges composés’, discovered and realized by Roy Howat, with facsimile of Debussy’s manuscript). Theodore Presser, 1980.

Morceau de concours, piano; Editions Durand (1980).

Page d’album, piano (urtext edition); Presser (1980).

Images (oubliées), piano – musical text edited by Arthur Hoérée & Roy Howat, Presser (1977).

Facsimile Editions

Claude Debussy, Preludes Book 1. The autograph score. Introduction by Roy Howat. The Pierpont Morgan Library Music Manuscript Reprint Series. Dover Publications, 1987.

View on

Claude Debussy, Etudes pour le piano. Fac-similé des esquisses autographes (1915). Introduction par Roy Howat. (Publications du Centre de Documentation Claude Debussy, Tome 5.) Minkoff Editions (Geneva), 1989.

For Roy Howat’s Debussy CD series on Tall Poppies, go to Recordings on the side bar.


Gremlins can lurk in the most carefully proofed volumes, and new sources occasionally surface.  This list may therefore be useful for users of the hardbound piano volumes in the Durand-Costallat Œuvres Complètes (not forgetting that these volumes have scores of corrections not to be found elsewhere).  The budget paperbackoffprints incorporate most of these corrections, and reprints are updated when possible:

Series 1 vol. 1. Œuvres de jeunesse (early piano works up to 1892):

A computer glitch resulted in some accents and articulation marks not being printed in the hardback volume. (Ouch, but it’s still much the more accurate edition available, the corrections far outnumbering the missing symbols.) Paperback offprints of most of that volume’s contents have corrected this. Durand issued an Errata leaflet (plate number D.&F.15405), additional copies available free (hard copy or PDF, French and English) to any owners of the hardback volume who request it from Editions Durand in Paris. If any problem, in extremis Roy Howat can email the PDF. And the last RH note of the 1892 Nocturne, as many will guess, should be in bass clef.

Series 1 vol. 2 (Images of 1894, Pour le piano & Children’s corner):
p. 6 m. 10, RH C# should be tied across beats 2-3, and last RH note is D(#) not F(#)
p. 25 m. 29, RH note 6 read A not B
p. 37 m. 64, 3rd last RH chord, lowest note read C(#) not B
p. 66 m. 48, RH should read as in bar 47 (the chords on the offbeats)
p. 82 m. 103, in last LH chord read G-flat in place of A-flat (like m. 23)

Series 1 vol. 3 (Estampes; D’un cahier d’esquisses; Masques; L’isle joyeuse; Images series 1 & 2)
p. 54 m. 3, delete the RH pause
p. 75 m. 54, the first RH upbeat stem should have 3 not 2 flags (32nd-note)
p. 91 m. 111 (‘Mouvement’), last LH note should be F# as in surrounding bars

Series 1 vol. 5 (Preludes, Books 1 & 2)
p. 9 m. 11, RH chords 3 & 7should read as in m. 9 (with D-flat not C)
p. 43 m. 19, RH chord 3, add a flat to the E
p. 45 m. 44, last RH chord should be the same as in surrounding bars
p. 106 m. 46, 3rd last RH semi/16th, read E (doubling the upper voice) not D

Series 1 vol. 6 (Etudes; courtesy of the late Claude Helffer)
p. 50 m. 46, RH note 3 read F-natural
p. 79 m. 56, LH can be read editorially as in m. 52 (cf. reference in the critical notes)