You’d think after more than 200 posts I should have covered every major classical composer. And for the major ones this is probably true.
But there are still composers out there that I haven’t written about, including Eric Satie.
While his name may not be exactly a household item, he has written piano music that is often much better known than the composer himself, as they’ve been used in movies and on television all over the place.
His most famous pieces include the Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes. Most recently, you may have heard him in the soundtracks of TV series Mr. Robot or Dr. Who, but the list at IMDB counts 185 entries. Satie has even been covered in Jazz, see for example on Paolo Fresu´s Mare Nostrum II or on Enrico Pieranunzi´s recent album Menage à trois.
How did it I get to this blog post? Well, it was triggered by a discussion with my mother-in-law, who is at least as passionate about music as I am. She said “Have you written about Satie yet?” I answered that I hadn’t yet, but mainly because I still hadn’t found my “perfect” version.
Satie is not that often recorded. For years, you’d find a handful of classical recordings, typically by French pianists, like Aldo Ciccolini (ok he’s originally from Italy), or Pascal Rogé.
I hadn’t checked out new Satie recordings in quite a while. Turns out that was a mistake, he’s been recorded quite a bit in recent years. Steffen Schleiermacher released several volumes of his music on Dabringhaus und Grimm in 2012, Alexandre Thauraud published an album in 2014, and most recently, Russian/German pianist Olga Scheps has released an album on RCA Red Seal.
Olga Scheps – Satie (RCA Red Seal 2016)
In said discussion with my mother in law, we checked out several of these recent recordings. Initially I was relatively quick to dismiss Scheps´recording, based on simply on how she played Gnossienne No. 1.
Said Gnossienne has “lent” in the title, and I didn’t feel like Scheps was taking this work particularly slow. Indeed, her 3:07 are among the fastest out there, compared to Alexandre Tharaud at 3:34 or even more extreme Jean-Yves Thibaudet at 4:33. But actually, as sometimes I tend to be, my judgment was a bit too fast.
First of all, the legendary Ciccolini is even faster with 3:03, and actually, speed isn’t everything here. Turns out that Scheps really puts a lot of nuances into her Satie. A lot of details are highlighted, but in a fully natural way without ever sounding too “educational”.
Scheps, who being born in Russia, grew up in Germany, and now lives in Cologne, is probably better known for her very nice recording of Tchaikovsky´s 1st piano concerto than for these relatively “simple” pieces.
But you really need to check out this album, it reveals all the beauty there is in these little miniatures. This is not the “elevator music” as the composer sometimes called his own work (“musique d’ameublement”), this album requires you to sit down and take the time to absorb.
My rating: 4 stars