Roy Howat considers two Debussy piano pieces, “Les sons et les parfums” of 1910 and “Les soirs illuminés par l’ardeur du charbon” of 1917, whose titles come from within Baudelaire poems Debussy set in 1889 (‘Le balcon’ and ‘Harmonie du soir’). Like ‘Clair de lune’ and ‘La fille aux cheveux de lin’ (two piano pieces that directly share their title with one of his earlier songs), they are musically quite independent of the associated songs, yet invite exploration of whatever subtler relationships they may bear to these particularly structured poems of Baudelaire’s, sometimes via other Debussy works.
Known as both a scholar and a pianist, Roy Howat is one of the founding editors of the Debussy Œuvres Complètes for which he has edited four volumes of the piano music. His other critical editions include a Dover edition of Chabrier's piano music and a more extensive volume of Fauré's piano music for Peters Edition. His books include the influential Debussy in Proportion (Cambridge UP, 1983) and more recently The Art of French Piano Music (Yale up, 2009). His recordings include major piano and chamber works by composers including Debussy, Chabrier, Fauré and Pierné. His is currently Keyboard Research Fellow at the Royal Academy of Music in London.