Satie: Avant-dernières pensées; Gnossiennes; Heures séculaires et instantanées; Pièces froides; Trois morceaux en forme de poire; Embryons desséchés; Songs etc

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COMPOSERS: Satie
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Avant-dernières pensées; Gnossiennes; Heures séculaires et instantanées; Pièces froides; Trois morceaux en forme de poire; Embryons desséchés; Songs etc
PERFORMER: Alexandre Tharaud (piano); with Juliette (singer), Jean Delescluse (tenor), David Guerrier (trumpet), Isabelle Faust (violin), Eric Le Sage (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 902017-18

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Few collections of Satie’s music have captured this much misunderstood, multi-faceted composer remotely as well as this marvellous two-disc set from Alexandre Tharaud. His approach is more intelligent than the usual anodyne offerings. On the disc devoted to solo piano works the Gnossiennes form the framework for surveying Satie’s idiosyncratically named creations, like the Embryons desséchés or Avant-dernières pensées.

Tharaud is able to make the leaps from visionary to flippant, sublimely beautiful to downright silly with ease and his willingness to take risks really impresses. Taking his cue from an account of the private premiere of ‘Le piège de Méduse’, Tharaud puts a prepared piano to great effect.

Similarly, among the ‘duos’ of the second disc, he is joined for four songs by the decidedly unclassical Juliette. The idea is excellent, but the results are mixed, illuminating in ‘Chez le docteur’, frustrating in ‘Je te veux’. More rough than ready, her voice repeatedly mis-pitches and cracks, like a female Lee Marvin rather than a true chanteuse.

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Jean Delescluse, by contrast, is utterly wonderful, and it is hard to think of a better partner for the piano duo works than Eric Le Sage. No matter if a couple of the experiments do not quite work, it is hard to think of a better introduction to Satie’s music than this truly enjoyable collection. Christopher Dingle