Erik Satie's music is timeless and beautiful, but can it stand up to interpretation by downtown New York jazzbos? In the hands of Dan Willis & Velvet Gentlemen the answer is a resounding "YES!" Willis' arrangements are as brilliant as they are varied. There are some straightforward readings (as on most of the Nocturnes) right alongside some pretty inventive and even daring ones. Second Gymnopedie starts as an accordion-sax-drums trio, then slides almost imperceptibly to a guitar-trumpet-drums trio. John Hollenbeck's alway engaging drumwork ties it all together, but the really amazing thing is how much the tune now resembles Miles Davis' "All Blues!"
Japanese label Triton has released a Pascal Rogé album with a rather remarkable program; Crystal Dream features the eminent French pianist in a program that interweaves short piano pieces by Erik Satie with others written by contemporary Japanese composer Takashi Yoshimatsu, mostly pieces drawn from his Pleiades Dances. Both composers employ relatively simple melodic concepts harmonized with elegant, though elemental, kinds of accompaniments, so perhaps the combination makes sense. On the other hand, Satie never lived into the age of rock-based pop music, his engagement with the popular consisting mainly of French music hall tunes, and later in life, a sort of half-understood perception of ragtime rhythm. Yoshimatsu, however, would not be Yoshimatsu if it weren't for his strong connection to pop, though admittedly in Satie's case the pop group Blood, Sweat & Tears' adaptation of his Gymnopédie No. 1 once earned Satie a Grammy-winning single. Either way, one might wonder "how does this combination-slash-conversation work?"
For this Alpha-Classics album of modernist music arranged for two pianos, Alexei Lubimov and Slava Poprugin play four essential works that yield some surprises in their keyboard versions. Three of the pieces are transcriptions of instrumental music, specifically Igor Stravinsky's arrangement of his Concerto in E flat major, "Dumbarton Oaks," John Cage's reduction of Erik Satie's Socrate, and Darius Milhaud's four-hand transcription of Satie's Cinéma (composed as a soundtrack for the short Dadaist film Entr'acte, used in the ballet Relâche), with Stravinsky's Concerto for two pianos solo performed as it was originally written.
This is a marvelous release, equally perfect in conception, execution, and engineering. The program locates the intellectual origins of the American avant-garde composers Morton Feldman and John Cage not in postwar European developments, but in the music of Erik Satie, who with each decade seems a more pioneering figure. Feldman and Cage here seem not modernists, but postmodernists. Front and center at the beginning is Feldman's masterpiece Rothko Chapel (1967), a chamber-ensemble-and-chorus evocation of the Houston, Texas, chapel adorned with paintings by, and partly designed by, the Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko.
May 17th sees Erik Satie's 150th anniversary and ECHO-Klassik Award winning pianist Olga Scheps presents the only new studio recording of his most beautiful piano solo works for the Satie celebrations 2016. Erik Satie is among the most popular composers worldwide, his most famous piano pieces such as „Gymnopédie No. 1” or “Je te veux” are instantly recognisable, having be used constantly in motion picture soundtracks and TV ads. As a special Bonus Olga Scheps recorded “Gentle Threat” by Chilly Gonzales, whom she frequently works together with on stage. Olga Scheps was born in Moscow in 1986, the daughter of two pianists, and discovered the instrument for herself at the age of four. She began studying the piano more intensively after her family moved to Germany in 1992. At an early age she had already developed her own unique style of keyboard playing, which combines intense emotiveness and powerful expressivity with extraordinary pianistic technique.
The present installment of Arturo Sacchetti’s encyclopedic Organ History survey for Arts Music drops anchor in late-19th/early-20th-century France. It can be argued that the five instrumental sections from Satie’s Mass for the Poor that open this recital lose poignancy when shorn of their surrounding vocal movements, although the organ is a perfect instrument for the composer’s quirky, instantly identifiable harmonic language. By contrast, D’Indy’s Les Vêpres du Commun des Saints, Roussel’s Prélude et Fughetta, and Honegger’s Deux Pièces pour Orgue make an arid, academic impression. After Wayne Marshall’s pulverizing speed through the Pastorale by Roger-Ducasse (Virgin Classics), Sacchetti’s relatively conservative virtuosity proves less engaging. However, his incisive hand/foot coordination enliven Tournemire’s Improvisation on “Te Deum” and Langlais’ Hymne d’Actions de grâces “Te Deum”, although the latter yields to Andrew Herrick’s more vivid and better engineered traversal on Hyperion. Organists looking for an effective, unhackneyed encore should consider Ibert’s Musette or Milhaud’s Pastorale.
Jean-Yves Thibaudet has undertaken the complete solo piano works of another late nineteenth/early twentieth century French composer: Erik Satie. This even includes a sample of Vexations, that theme and two variations that Satie instructs to be played slowly, 840 times. It's interesting to compare Thibaudet's interpretations of these works with those of Aldo Ciccolini, who was one of Thibaudet's teachers. Overall, Thibaudet gives a less-Romantic interpretation, with less overt emotion and more introverted abstraction, but it is not overly academic.