COMPOSERS: Erik Satie
ALBUM TITLE: Erik Satie
WORKS: Trois Gymnopédies; Pièces froides; Douze petits chorals; Avant-dernières pensées; Nocturnes; Sept Gnossiennes; Sonatine bureaucratique
PERFORMER: Bruno Fontaine (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Aparté AP 116
Bruno Fontaine’s boldness should be applauded. There is no shortage of identikit Satie piano recitals that present an anaemic, straight-laced portrait of this most idiosyncratic of composers. At first sight, Fontaine’s new disc is no different. He obeys the legal requirement for Satie piano recitals to include the Gymnopédies and throws in the Gnossiennes as additional indemnity.
The performances, though, challenge the safe conformity, the curious predictability that smooths the edges in so many Satie recitals. Where the melody of the second Gymnopédie or the first Gnossienne says it should be loud, it is loud. All that should be startling about this is that he is prepared to emphasise rather than temper such moments. There is an improvisatory, mercurial air about much of the playing that is truly refreshing, especially in works such as the Avant-dernières pensées or the Sonatine bureaucratique. Sudden jolts in dynamic or tempo are not (or, at least, should not be) problematic in Satie, even when, as here, the piano has a tendency towards harshness. Less convincing, though, are passages where the pulse becomes erratic like a sailor staggering around on dry land for the first time in months. A frustrating distortion in an original vision.