Satie: Nocturnes, Ogives, Sarabandes

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Satie
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Nocturnes, Ogives, Sarabandes
PERFORMER: Klára Koermendi (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.550696 DDD
These new discs of Satie’s piano works are up against some stiff competition, particularly from Anne Queffélec, whose two-disc selection on Virgin Classics is still my top recommendation. But for those who want the complete works Klára Koermendi could, on the evidence of Volume 1, be a strong contender.

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The sound doesn’t have the delicacy of Queffélec’s, but some may find its warmth preferable. These early, mystical works are hard to bring off – their utterly simple rhythmic tread and deliberately aimless, circling harmonies can sound enervating and ponderous. Koermendi brings out the mysterious, self-effacing grace of these pieces by adopting fairly brisk tempi, which allow her to give a sense of line to those slowly processing chords and winding melodies.

Her performances of the five Nocturnes are particularly fine; they are sensitively inflected without being at all sentimental. Shimada’s three-disc set is a tough listen, as it’s devoted almost entirely to music from Satie’s ‘Rosicrucian’ period. All that mysticism is hard to take, particularly in performances as stodgy and overblown as these.

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Things improve on the third disc, which has some light relief in the form of Parade, a Dadaist ballet with waltzes and ragtimes. It also contains Cage’s brilliant and rarely-heard two-piano arrangement of Socrate. The performances finally come to life on this disc, which makes me wish Sony had released it on its own. Ivan Hewett