Satie: Piano Music, Vol.1: Le fils des étoiles

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COMPOSERS: Satie
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Scene
WORKS: Piano Music, Vol.1: Le fils des étoiles
PERFORMER: Steffen Schleiermacher (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 613 1063-2
Satie, the ‘skeleton-key figure’ of 20th-century music (in David Drew’s memorable phrase), has always existed on the margins of musical life: it’s in the nature of his oeuvre that this should be so. Nevertheless, his influence on later composers (starting with Debussy) was huge, and performer-champions have regularly arisen to revive his theatrical creations, songs and large body of piano music.

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The latest fine-grained musician to reveal special understanding of his curious compositional personality, in equal parts music-hall wit, surrealist and priest, is the German Steffen Schleiermacher, whose discs of Cage piano works for the same label have been acclaimed. Vol. 1 of a projected Satie series is devoted to the early ‘Rose Cross’ period – when he was involved with the bizarre mystical sect of that name – and to his score for Le fils des étoiles, the 1892 drama by Péladan, the sect leader.

This was not played whole at the time, and only a piano version survives. Extracts – three preludes and a movement now known as the Seventh Gnossienne – have become familiar. The whole work, much of

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it devoted to passages of hypnotic chordal repetition, should prove trance-inducing for true Satie-ites, especially in this beautifully rapt, expertly controlled, finely recorded account. Others may find the whole distinctly hard going. Max Loppert