> Satie Piano Music Ciccolini [TB]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Erik SATIE (1866-1925)
The Music for Piano (complete)
Aldo Ciccolini (piano 2 & 4 hands)
Rec 1967-1971, EMI France
EMI Classics 5 74534 2 [5CDs: 53.13, 54.29,59.37, 60.41, 48.19] Superbudget


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This bargain-priced reissue of Erik Satie's complete piano music comes from EMI France on five CDs, though with a little juggling of the contents of each disc, it could have been offered on four. But no matter, since this remains an absolute bargain anyway.
The reason that this thought is uppermost in my mind is that Satie is very much a miniaturist. For few of the pieces collected here last longer than a couple of minutes. Therefore it seems highly unlikely that anyone will want to sit through all five discs one after the other. It is intended very much as a library item, and dipping into it will give the listener the utmost pleasure.
In fact Aldo Ciccolini recorded this repertoire is a second time during the 1980s. However, in this splendid remastering his earlier performances sound very well indeed, and his insights into the music and its particular style are second to none. So this bargain-priced compilation is as near definitive as one is likely to find.
The first disc starts with Satie's most famous music, the Trois Gymnopédies of 1888. Their under-stated, cool fluency is marvellously conveyed by Ciccolini, whose sense of tempo is admirable throughout the collection, as too is his judgement of phrasing and dynamics. Of course there is a greater musical range than these early pieces imply, and the performances of the entertaining caf‚-style music, such as Pièce en forme de poire or La belle excentrique, are excellent examples of the composer in more lively and extrovert mood. On the other hand, some of the later works, such as the Nocturnes of 1919, are somewhat intellectual in approach and manner, altogether unconcerned with entertainment.
Having said all this, Satie's greatest musical strength remains his innate wit, a commodity to be valued in music as in life. In this regard it is worth observing that Ciccolini always keeps the music moving along, without imposing undue emphasis on forced characterisation.
If the recorded sound in these remasterings has a fault, it is a tendency towards dryness, though such a trend is not altogether inappropriate to the musical style, of course. The piano-duet music was recorded by using Ciccolini twice over, with the two parts dubbed together in the studio. The natural response to this conceit is to frown upon it, but in fact the results are successful enough. However, it is interesting to note that when he returned to record this repertoire afresh more than a decade later, he engaged the services of a second pianist, Gabriel Tacchino. And quite rightly too.
This is a French issue and the insert notes come in French only. The documentation is adequate rather than substantial, but everything is beautifully presented. Just like Ciccolini's performances, in fact.

Terry Barfoot

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