Satie: 3 Gymnopedies (CD review)
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.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.