Satie and Friends
This musical jardin à la française is dedicated to the memory of Brigitte Engerer, whose death in June last year Anne Queffélec heard of on the very morning she began recording this disc. I have no idea in which order she played any of these 29 short works but many are suffused with a profound melancholy and nostalgia that is highly affecting. That is not to say that it’s all doom and gloom. Far from it. There are plenty of Gallic high spirits: Satie’s ‘Cancan grand-mondain’ from La belle excentrique, for instance, in which Queffélec is joined by Gaspard Dehaene, or ‘Le Piccadilly’ and ‘d’Holothurie’ from Embryons desséchés, the ending of which made me laugh out loud.
Each of the 10 composers has something individual and unique to say while adhering to those peculiarly French qualities defined by Queffélec as ‘concision, delicacy, clarity, restraint, rejection of turgidity, or anything heavy or pretentious’. Many of the pieces are little known, such as ‘Nonchalante’ by Pierre-Octave Ferroud, whose tragic early death in 1936 – he was decapitated by a car windscreen – prompted Poulenc’s pilgrimage to Rocamadour and a regaining of his spiritual life. There are several other rewarding discoveries. The ‘ultra-celebrated’ (Queffélec) works like the First Gymnopédie and Clair de lune are played with a radiance and repose that are among the best on record. The ambient sound is warm and intimate, proving that with the right microphone placement you can achieve miracles in an empty 1000-seat auditorium like this one in Poitiers. Altogether an enchanting disc with which to mark your 65th birthday.