CD of the Week: Satie: Complete Piano Works, Vol. 1

French pianist Nicolas Horvath explores the eccentric mysticism of one of the leading minds of modernist music.

“A huge, very uncomfortable and rather ugly building; a sort of local penitentiary without any interior charm – or exterior either. … Despite my extreme youth and my delicious Agility, through your lack of intelligence you have made me loath the coarse Art that you teach; by your inexplicable harshness, you have made me despise you for ages.”

Satie's self-portrait
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Needless to say, Erik Satie never became the Paris Conservatory’s most beloved student in either of his enrollments there. The 1892 letter he penned to the school, quoted above, marked his final resignation of any interest for the Romantic ideologies that had become the cornerstone of the conservatory’s teaching philosophy.

Satie’s lack of enthusiasm for contemporary music was fortuitous. Having developed interest in more experimental sound colors (alongside the more radical of his contemporaries such as Debussy and Faure) at a young age, Satie was more than eager to abandon his studies as a pianist so that he could turn his full attention to composing. Equally fortuitous was his father establishing his own music publishing business, allowing the impassioned Satie to compose as experimentally as he wanted, without the risk of rejection from a more traditionally conservative publisher.

Satie’s solo piano works are among his most popular compositions. The famously unorganized composer left several manuscripts of varying completion strewn about his study at the time of his death in 1925, and it is for that reason that musicians such as French pianist Nicolas Horvath are able to furnish world premiere recordings of some of his pieces, even after over 100 years. In his new album Horvath also explores Satie’s more famous works, including the celebrated Three Gymnopedies and the mystical grandeur of Ogives.

Listen to a track:

For more information and to purchase this recording, visit ArkivMusic.

Track listing:
1. Allegro
2. Valse-Ballet
3. Fantasie-Valse
4. 1st Quatuor
5. 2nd Quatuor
6-9. Ogives
10-12. Three Sarabandes
13-15. Three Gymnopedies
16. Gnossienne No. 5
17. Chanson Hongroise
18-20. Three Gnossiennes
21. Pièce sans Titre
22. Gnossienne No. 4
23. Leït-Motiv du "Panthée"
24-26. Sonneries de la Rose+Croix
27. Gnossienne No. 7 (from Act I of "Fils des Étoiles")