Satie: 3 Gymnopedies (CD review)

Also, Gnossiennes, Je te Veux, Le Picadilly. Pascal Roge, piano. Decca Originals B0006393-02.

Erik Satie (1866-1925) wrote primarily solo piano music, and most of his best material can easily fit on a single disc. Of the single-disc collections currently available, this one with pianist Pascal Roge, reissued in Decca's "Originals" line several years ago, and one by Aldo Ciccolini in EMI's "Great Recordings of the Century" line, issued a few years earlier, are probably a person's best current bets for this music.

Both Roge and Ciccolini include the three Gymnopedies, those lovely kaleidoscopic views of impressionistic imagery, plus the six Gnossiennes and an assortment of other, differing pieces. The choice between the discs may come down to which sound you prefer and which accompanying material you like.

As for that sound, both recordings are digital and derive from the mid 1980s, but while the EMI disc is marginally clearer, better focused, it also has some odd swishing noises between notes, possibly caused by the pianist himself. The Decca disc, on the other hand, is slightly softer, warmer, and maybe a little more veiled, but it tends to complement Satie's lushly romantic world in the process. In addition, Roge includes a couple of Satie's delightful music-hall songs I like a lot and which the composer transcribed for piano: "Je te Veux" ("I Want You") and "Le Picadilly."

The playing time on both discs is generous, over an hour for the Decca and even longer for the EMI. They are both fine collections of some of Satie's best work, performed with authority by two fine Satie interpretors.

OK, since their respective companies offer the discs at mid price, maybe buying both of them is a person's best choice.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa