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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Klára Körmendi (piano), Orchestre Symphonique et Lyrique de Nancy/Jérôme Kaltenbach
NAXOS 8.556688
[68.41]

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Erik SATIE (1866-1925)
The Best of Erik Satie

Trois Gymnopédies
1. Lent et douloureux
2. Lent et triste
3. Lent et grave

Six Gnossiennes

1. Lent
2. Avec étonnement
3. Lent
4. Lent
5. Modéré
6. Avec conviction et une tristesse rigoureuse

Je te veux (Valse pour Piano)
Avant-dernières pensées

1. Idylle
2. Aubade
3. Méditation

La Diva de l'Empire (Intermezzo Américain d'après la célèbre chanson)
Les trois valses distingués du précieux dégoûté

1. Sa taille
2. Son binoche
3. Ses jambes

Trois Sarabandes
Trois Nocturnes
Rêverie du pauvre
Trois Gymnopédies (orchestral version)
1. Lent et douloureux (orch. Debussy)
2. Lent et triste (orch. Roland-Manuel)
3. Lent et grave (orch. Debussy)


I had to look very hard all over this issue to find out who was playing Satie's music here. Eventually, I spotted the information in small print at the bottom of page 12 in the booklet. This is hardly fair to the performers, and infuriating to listeners as well. If record companies are going to market these compilations, which are a way of repackaging existing recordings in a supposedly more 'accessible' way, there is no reason why essential information should be so hard to spot. In any case, it is quite misleading to produce a CD called 'The Best of Erik Satie' without it containing, to take just one example, the wonderful Sports et Divertissements.

Klára Körmendi plays the piano music sensitively and stylishly, with just the right degree of detachment. As always with Satie, one has to be prepared to take monotony as part of the deal; it isn't until track 7 that we experience any change of piano texture, or until track 8 that we encounter the merest hint of major tonality. But patience pays; the final 'Gnossienne' is a fine piece, far more interesting to my ears than the other five.

The waltz Je te veux and the 'Intermezzo Américain' La Diva de l'Empire show Satie's other side - his sincere involvement with the popular café music of the day, and the carefree yet sentimental mood is well captured here. The highlights on the disc, though, are surely the wonderful Avant-dernières Pensées. These little gems demonstrate clearly Satie's importance for Stravinsky and Les Six. Their dry humour is delicious, and fortunately the booklet gives details of the composer's tongue-in-cheek commentary on the content of the music. New to me, and a real discovery, is the beautiful Rêverie du Pauvre (Poor Man's Day-Dream). This is full of gently unexpected twists and turns of harmony, and has a dignified simplicity, which brings to mind Schumann's The Poet Speaks.

It was a nice idea to complete the disc with the orchestral versions of the three Gymnopédies, well played here by the Nancy Orchestra under their conductor Jérôme Kaltenbach. This issue, then, is an enjoyable mixture of well-known and less familiar Satie, and is certainly a great introduction to his music for anyone wishing to explore it.

Gwyn Parry-Jones



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