SATIE Piano Music Vol 2
If Erik Satie was championed by Debussy and Cocteau during his lifetime, popular fascination with this French iconoclast can credibly be dated to the 1960s, with François Lesure’s exhibition at the Bibliothèque Nationale, the concerts of John Cage and the recordings of Aldo Ciccolini. Last year, when the perspicaciously prolific Noriko Ogawa marked the 150th anniversary of Satie’s birth by embarking on a survey of his piano music, playing an 1890 Érard, the response was appropriately enthusiastic. Her second instalment in the series warrants an equally warm reception.
In a programme spanning Satie’s creative career, the largest piece of real estate is devoted to Sports et divertissements, 21 miniatures that, when played as a series, amount to about 13 minutes. Imbuing these tiny musical statements, several of which last less than 30 seconds, with the character suggested in titles such as ‘Fishing’, ‘Bathing in the Sea’, ‘Yachting’, ‘Golf’, ‘The Picnic’, ‘The Tango’, ‘Flirtation’, ‘Fireworks’ and ‘Tennis’ is no mean feat. Ogawa succeeds admirably, aided and abetted at every turn by her beautiful, straight-strung Érard, its vividly distinct registers expertly captured by the BIS engineers.
Earliest of the pieces presented here are the Three Sarabandes, the second of which is dedicated to Ravel. It is startling to realise that Satie conceived them in 1887, anticipating the Baroque dance evocations of Saint Saëns and well before the archaising suites of Ravel and Debussy. Ogawa unveils a distinctively restrained yet aptly exalted tone for the suites written in response to Satie’s various spiritual perambulations, Sonneries de la Rose+Croix and Trois Préludes du Fils des étoiles.
Appreciation of Debussy and Ravel’s stature need not be diminished by exploring the number of trends in their work anticipated by Satie. Instead, experiencing Satie’s prescient charms and occasional impudence, particularly with a guide as sympathetic as Ogawa, lends context and nuance to our understanding of those whom he demonstrably influenced.