Eric SATIE (1866-1925)
Trois Mélodies (1886)
Les Anges [2:47]
Elégie [3:41]
Sylvie [3:38]
Trois Autres Mélodies (1889-1906)
Chanson [1:08]
Chanson médiévale [1:24]
Les Fleurs [1:53]
Hymne (1891) [4:34]
Socrate - Drame Symphonique en trois Parties avec Voix (1919)
Portrait de Socrate [5:49]
Les Bords d’Illissus [7:30]
Mort de Socrate [18:25]
Barbara Hannigan (soprano)
Reinbert de Leeuw (piano)
rec. September 2015, Muziekcentrum van de Omroep, Hilversum, The Netherlands
WINTER & WINTER 910 234-2 [50:51]

This release has been reviewed extensively by John Quinn and was made a Recording of the Month by Stuart Sillitoe. This recording seems to me like a perfect synergy between Reinbert de Leeuw’s sensitive, restrained touch and magical balancing of Erik Satie’s distinctive harmonies, and Barbara Hannigan’s pure and expressive vocal tones. This is the kind of CD I would recommend to someone who doesn’t like classical vocal recordings. I know even opera singers who are put off by vocalists who seem to have taken lessons from an old-fashioned steam kettle, but this is entirely the opposite. Hannigan uses vibrato as a vehicle for heightened expression rather than a permanent feature of her vocal sound, but has the pin-point intonation and timbre to carry it off, and the feel for melodic shape and language to sustain each song and make each one something very special indeed. Take that little sensual slide toward the end of Sylvie and the touches of delightfully playful extravagance in the following Chanson: this is the kind of vocal performance you can listen to for a very long time and not be anything less than spellbound.

Reinbert de Leeuw’s association with Satie goes back a long way, and while changing tastes now seem to dictate that his 1970s Philips recordings are too slow there was always something uniquely special in his playing which, to my mind, remains eternally valid. I am glad to hear that this sound is very much still in evidence, providing the kind of experience which makes you want a song like Hymne go on forever. De Leeuw has recorded Satie songs before, and I still have an LP from 1980 on which he accompanies Marjanne Kweksilber which was re-released in a Philips box set with the early piano works recordings but is now easiest to find as a download, and recommendable if you are looking for the Trois poèmes d’amour, Quatre petits mélodies, Trois mélodies from 1916 and Ludions.

The programme is well chosen, with the earlier songs getting us in the mood for the more enigmatic Socrate. This “white, lucid, transparent and even” composition is more the vehicle for philosophy and views on the human condition than song-like music in the traditional sense, though the changing moods and fleeting ‘scenes’ are pure Satie, and delivered with attractive warmth by this duo.

With its perfectly balanced recording, Cocteau illustrated disc and highly desirable content this is indeed one of the Satie anniversary discs of the year. Song lyrics are not printed in the foldout digipack, but can be found on the Winter & Winter website.

Dominy Clements
Previous reviews: John Quinn ~ Stuart Sillitoe (Recording of the Month)

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