Satie: Complete Piano Works Vol.1

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Erik Satie (1866-1925) was without doubt one of great ‘one offs’in musical history. Impossible to categorise, he composed around 100 works, which include film scores, ballets, melodies and above all piano works. A friend of Debussy, Ravel, Cocteau,Picasso and Diaghalev, he was at the core of the avant garde in Paris, and yet he remained an outsider – deliberately so.

Happy playing piano in jazz bars – where he and Debussy met each other, Satie was the antithesis of the late 19th century and early 20th musical world as dominated by Wagner and his adherents. The master of Bayreuth had proclaimed himself the prophet of ‘music of the future’and his vast opulently scored music dramas cast their spell over the Second Viennese school, and also Debussy, whose opera Pelléas et Melisande has a good deal of Parsifal and Tristan in its score. With Satie, it was the music of the past that was important, and he even returned to the tones of the ancient Greeks. Gymnopédies evokes the dance of children from ancient Sparta, who danced in honour of Apollo. Similarly, Gnossiennes is from the labyrinth at Knossos (Gnossos). It wasn’t all ancient Greek influences though that guided Satie’s inspiration – jazz and the music hall were potent influences

Perhaps the most idiosyncratic work he composed is Vexations. He composed it in 1893, but refused to show the score to anyone, and the premiere took place in 1963 at the instigation of John Cage. The score occupies a single page, headed ‘Page Mystique. To play this motif 840 times in succession, it will be necessary to prepare oneself in advance, in total silence, by remaining absolutely motionless.’ A complete performance thus takes 18–30 hours. Cristina Ariagno plays an excerpt.

Tracklist can be found below!


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