Erik Satie: Gymnopédies

Satie would, without doubt, come top of any list of eccentric composers.

After all, can you imagine anyone else writing a set of Flabby Preludes for a Dog or Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear? His three dream-like, sparse Gymnopédies were composed in 1888 and named after an ancient Greek rite enacted by groups of naked youths. Consequently, the set’s publication only served to cement Satie’s status as the musical pin-up boy of Bohemian Paris in the late nineteenth century. Piano music was Satie’s first love: he started his compositional career by writing for the instrument, and would return to it again and again. In the Gymnopédies, there’s a wonderful sense of musical distillation: no note is extraneous; nothing is rushed; and it’s almost impossible to hear them and not feel relaxed afterwards. Satie was ahead of his time with his attitudes towards the way in which classical music should be used: he coined the term ‘furniture music’ for pieces that could be played amid the general hubbub of everyday life, in restaurants and homes, without the need for sole concentration on the music itself. Well over a century later, the Gymnopédies are frequently used in this way. They were a labour of love – but one that was supremely worthwhile.

Recommended Recording

Pascal Rogé (piano). Decca: 4102202.