G. Henle’s Debussy Urtext Editions from an experienced duo

Claude Debussy

Ernst-Günter Heinemann – the Debussy Editor at G. Henle Verlag

Ernst-Günter Heinemann


2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Claude Debussy, French music’s great innovator celebrated worldwide. Whoever deals with our Debussy editions inevitably comes across the name Ernst-Günter Heinemann, editor at Henle from 1978 to 2010 and still closely associated today with the publishing house.



Piano Works I-III

He is the editor of Debussy’s complete Piano Works published by Henle and available since 2011 in a three-volume collected edition (paper covers HN 1192, 1194, 1196, linen covers HN 1193, 1195, 1197); he has also edited a large part of Debussy’s chamber music – altogether a real Herculean task!


Close cooperation with François Lesure, the most important of all Debussy scholars

François Lesure

G. Henle had been planning Debussy as early as the 1970s, but initially had to wait until the copyright expired as well as until the problems of locating and acquiring the sources could be solved. Then, proving to be a godsend was contact with François Lesure, at that time the most important of all Debussy scholars. In 1977 Lesure had published a first comprehensive thematic catalogue, resulting, as is usual in such enterprises, in numerous changes and additions over subsequent years. Collaboration with Lesure, who agreed to take on the prefaces for the Henle editions, therefore guaranteed that the genesis and publication history of the respective works would be described in line with the current state of research and that no important source for the edition would be overlooked.

Building up the Debussy Catalogue

A start was made in 1983 with the popular piano works Deux Arabesques, Suite bergamasque and Children’s Corner, soon to be followed by new editions of Pour le piano as well as the first volume of the Préludes. With the early Piano Trio (its autograph having been discovered just shortly before), the first French chamber music work also appeared in 1986, garbed in blue. This first edition of the hitherto lost composition, edited by the American musicologist Ellwood Derr, was well received in the press, but the new piano music editions were also appreciatively welcomed:

High esteem by musicians and press

As if this singular first edition [of the piano trio] would not have been enough, the Henle publishing house completes its great commitment to Debussy by issuing a number of key piano works in the currently well-known “blue” Urtext edition. Now the opportunity has come for faithful players of Debussy and for pedagogues to replace their worn music texts […] and to determine at the same time whether the previously used music text really represents the latest state of research and accurately corresponds to the will of the composer. (Olof Höjer in: Musikrevy, nos. 7-8, 1986)

Completing the Debussy Catalogue

Very regularly for many years up to the time of Lesure’s death in 2001, the experienced Lesure/Heinemann duo edited new Debussy editions, nearly all the solo piano music, together with the essential chamber music works. It has been understood that by 2011/12 the final gaps in Debussy’s manifold piano and chamber music works could be closed.


Editing the G. Henle Urtext Editions, we are glad that mostly the autographs are preserved, as the original publisher Durand, Paris, used them as source for engraving. Debussy has been in close personal contact to Durand and delivered the new autographs in person. For this reason, Jacques Durand came into possession of Debussy’s autographs, available at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, since 1964.

Debussy very often changed details in his music at Durand’s. For this in reason, the main source is in general the first print, the autograph is only the additional source. In some cases, there still exist the proof (Masques) or there is a second edition (Deux Arabesques).

Special Expertise

All Editions provide commentaries in German, English and French, this is true for preface, footnotes and critical commentary. Musicians appreciate especially the extended glossary with Debussy’s indication of tempo and practical advices, often described in vivid expressions. The glossary is translated in German and English.

The G. Henle Debussy Catalogue today

Facsimile L’Isle joyeuse, Opening of the first music page

Today, including individual pieces in mixed albums as well as excerpts taken from collections or cycles, there are no less than 50 Debussy editions to choose from in the Henle catalogue! We would especially point out in this context the facsimile of the original manuscript of L’Isle joyeuse with an introduction by the Debussy specialist Denis Herlin, which was released for the 2012 anniversary.


Shop more G. Henle sheet music at Sheet Music Plus!


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