How to celebrate Erik Satie at 150

We mark Erik Satie's 150th anniversary with a round-up of unmissable concerts

Erik Satie, Getty Images

If you think you know the French pianist and composer Erik Satie (1866-1925) from his famous Gymnopédies, with their slow-moving melodies, think again. There’s so much more to discover about this eccentric Parisian who embraced Surrealism, who counted Debussy and Ravel as friends, and who influenced a generation of French composers. Here’s a selection of the events to look out for around the country…


Pascal Rogé, St George’s, Bristol

Pianist Pascal Rogé, one of the world’s foremost interpreter’s of Satie’s works, is appearing in Bristol ahead of the Cheltenham Festival (see below). His selection of Satie's works includes the most famous pieces, composed when Satie was working as a cabaret pianist in Montmartre in the late 1880s – the famous Gymnopédie No. 1 and Gnossienne No. 3 (the latter inspired by Romanian folk music). He also serves up a curiosity, the Embryons déssechés (1913) in which Satie portrays unusual creatures like sea cucumbers and crustaceans. These are interweaved with works by Ravel, Debussy and Poulenc.

St George’s, Bristol, Friday 27 May 2016

An Erik Satie Cabaret, London

French pianist Alexandre Tharaud and tenor Jean Delescluse join actor/impressionist Alistair McGowan (above) for a celebratory cabaret of words and music by Satie at this summer’s BBC Proms. The lunchtime concert at Cadogan Hall evokes the spirit of Paris’s Le Chat Noir cabaret club, which Satie often frequented, and includes readings from Satie's Memoirs of an Amnesiac and music from his solo piano compositions. (McGowan also appears in Ulverton, Cumbria with his tribute, on 14 June).

Proms Chamber Music 3: An Erik Satie cabaret, 1 August, 1pm

Satie at 150, Cheltenham Festival

Satie's 150th anniversary is one of the major strands of this year's Cheltenham festival. With his partner and fellow pianist, Ami Rogé, Pascal Rogé (above) begins a day of Satie celebrations (on 6 July), in a concert that weaves in solo favourites, alongside piano duet Morceaux en forme de poire (1903). It also includes the composer's music for the ballet Parade (1907) which is celebrated for being part of Surrealism movement's start.

Pittville Pump Room, Cheltenham, Wednesday 6 July, 11–1.10pm

In the evening there is another chance to see Meurig Bowen’s Erik Satie: Memoirs Of A Pear-Shaped Life from last year’s Cheltenham Festival. Half-monologue (by actor Allan Corduner) and half-recital (by pianist Anne Lovett) it portrays the ageing composer looking back on his life. The festival is also programming an overnight marathon of Satie's Vexations on 15 July at St Paul's Church. It will need a small army of pianists to perform it, as Satie gave instuctions that it should be repeated 840 times!

Erik Satie: Memoirs of a Pear-Shaped Room, Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Wednesday 6 July, 9:30-10:45pm

Satie Reconstitué, Edinburgh

Ensemble Dissous, a group of Edinburgh-based students and musicians, are paying tribute to Satie, a composer they flag up for being ‘conceived under Scottish skies’. Combining musical vignettes and choice sayings, they delve deep into his soundworld and his influence on the French art world. The performers include Kirsty Ball (flute), Margaret Christie (oboe), Hebe James (clarinet), Afrodita Katmeridu (violin), and Erin Whalley (bassoon).

Edinburgh Central Library, Tuesday 17 May, 6.30pm

Read more…

Erik Satie: Biography


Six of the best… works by Satie