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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Erik SATIE (1866-1925)
Socrate *
6 Nocturnes
Menuet
Jean Belliard (tenor)*
Billy Eidi (piano)
Recorded 26-17 August 1993, Théâtre du Poissy, France
TIMPANI 1C1020 [52.11]
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Satie is of course a strange composer. But then aren't they all? For example, if we don't find Mozart's music strange and compelling, we have surely misunderstood it. But having made that indulgent point, it remains the case that Satie is strange, and perhaps more so than most.

The 'Symphonic Drama in Three Parts', as he described his Socrate for voice and piano, is one of his most extended compositions, and therefore quite different from the miniatures on which his reputation rests. Lasting more than half an hour, this music has a beguiling use of the language but at the same time a rather monochrome musical approach. As ever, Billy Eidi is a sympathetic accompanist to his singer, and he skilfully sustains the flow of the music. Make no mistake, this music is hard to perform, and Eidi's sensitivity and skill are both splendid.

It is the nature of the French language itself which both inspired and sustains Socrate. For the line is fluid, the form flexible, a kind of stream of consciousness in which the relationship between voice and piano is effectively balanced, the latter carrying the musical line, hence the importance of the pianist (TRY TRACK 1: 0.00). It is just as well that Eidi is so convincing, because the same cannot be said for the tenor voice of Jean Belliard. Basically pleasing in matters of phrasing and articulation, he seems to have problems with the middle and lower range, particularly when the chest voice is involved (TRY TRACK 3. 2.20). There is therefore a disconcerting tendency to sing flat. As such the performance can only be viewed as a mixed success, for Satie enthusiasts rather than a wider recommendation as a musical experience. For this music is hard to perform, as this recording tells us.

The Nocturnes are effectively if not particularly atmospherically, played and recorded (TRY TRACK 4: 0.00). They and the bonus item, the Menuet, are not Satie's best music but they are perfectly efficient. Again Eidi shows himself to be an artist of distinction. The documentation is excellent, both full and thorough. Once again the presentation standards of Timpani are an example to others.


Terry Barfoot


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