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The musical line from Satie to Horvath


Erik Satie, Complete Piano Works Vol. 1 -- New Salabert Edition performed by pianist Nicolas Horvath (Grand Piano)

To begin this music chronologically -- which Horvath does -- is to plunge you up to your neck in exactly the sort of Chopinesque conventionality that the rest of Satie's radicalism negates so decisively.

By the time he was composing the works that have become some of the most popular in our time -- the "Gymnopedies," "Gnossiennes," and "Sarabandes" -- he was one of the great artistic radicals of the late 19th century, a minimalist, modalist and almost fanatical enemy of rhetoric.

In his flight from everything German in music, he became an inspiration to some of the greatest 20th century American composers (Cage and Thomson, especially). The piano Horvath plays here once belonged to Cosima Wagner and is said to be from Satie's instrument maker of choice. There are countless recorded versions of these Satie favorites, many of them in much better versions (no one, in my view, has ever surpassed Aldo Ciccolini's from a half century ago) but these are newly edited versions of Satie, including music heretofore little known. If Horvath's performances are more than a little academic for some of the least academic music ever written, the notes on the disc by Robert Orledge are particularly fine.

3 stars (out of four)

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