Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

ERIK SATIE (1866-1925) piano music    Aldo Ciccolini (piano)   rec 1983-36, Salle Wagram, Paris GREAT RECORDINGS OF THE CENTURY EMI CLASSICS CDM 5 67239 2 [71.31]

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Trois Gymnopédies (1888)
Six Gnossiènes (1889-93)
Croquis et Agaceries (1913)
Embryons desséchés (1913)
Sonatine bureaucratique (1917)
Avant-dernières Pensées (1915)
Véritables préludes flasques (1912)
Cinq Nocturnes (1919)
Trois Morceaux en forme de poire * (1903)
La Belle Excentrique * (1920)
Aldo Ciccolini (piano) joined by Gabriel Tacchino in *

What a surprise to be reminded that the Three Gymnopédies date from 1888! Their timeless slow treading enchantment is seraphically in keeping with Keats' Ode to a Grecian Vase. Gnossiènes (the title refers to the Knossos of antiquity) represent cold pebbles and pools. Number four is oriental and very attractive while No. 6 seems to suggest the sidling canter of a centaur. Do not miss these pieces if you are at all drawn to Ravel's Pavane.

In the Agaceries Mozart meets Joplin and Beethoven and Chabrier's España gets the mocking Satie treatment. The Embryons (some cross-fertilisation here with Saint-Saens fossils from Carnival of the Animals?) skitter and rush like a nest of cockroaches contrasting with the pompous second piece and the jaunty third with its dissentient car horn noises.

The Sonatine Bureaucratique is Mozartian and early Beethoven with a touch of the Fate motif in the middle movement. Avant-dernières pensées is, in its first section, very much out of the same pages as Gymnopédie No. 1 as also is no. 2 brisk. On joue is brusque. The Five nocturnes are slow with the ooze of summer; the fall of sap from the baking trees. The last nocturne (un-named) is vaguely dissonant.

We then come to the pieces for two pianos. Trois Morceaux en forme de poire represent a varied picture gallery: exotic impressionism (and possibly his own Gymnopédies) lampooned, Graingerian scattiness and clattering anarchy. Anarchic loopiness jumps and shakes it way through La Belle Excentrique and if you know Peter Warlock's Cod-Pieces or Lord Berners' piano music you will likely take to these pieces.

I jumped to quite the wrong conclusion when I first saw this disc. I had presumed that the recordings were reissues from an analogue cycle recorded by Ciccolini in the late 1960s. Not a bit of it. These are true DDD recordings made in the 1980s.

Documentation superb. Recordings fine. Playing time generous. Performances a joy making as much of the moods lampooned as the lampooning itself.


Rob Barnett

 Details of the entire Great Recordings of the Century series may be seen here 


Rob Barnett

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