Satie: Gymnopédies; Nocturnes; Sarabandes; Le fils des étoiles

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COMPOSERS: Satie
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Gymnopédies; Nocturnes; Sarabandes; Le fils des étoiles
PERFORMER: Roland Pöntinen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-877
This is a better-than-average Satie collection, with works spanning his output, from the Fantaisie-valse of 1885 to his last piano piece, the typically inappropriately titled Premier menuet of 1920. Many facets of Satie’s personality are explored, from the pseudo-mystical Préludes from Le fils des étoiles to the satire of Croquis et agaceries, and from the surprising disquiet behind the Nocturnes to the calm of the Gymnopédies (which, incidentally, appeared on an earlier collection from Pöntinen, so their inclusion here does little to disprove my belief that the Gymnopédies are a legal requirement of every Satie disc).

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Pöntinen is, for the most part, a worthy advocate of Satie’s cause, characterising the whimsical turns of phrase in Chapitres tournés en tous sens, for instance, with aplomb and periodically infusing the melancholy of the second Nocturne with a sense of determination. Nevertheless, there are a few clouds on the horizon. Pöntinen’s interpretations occasionally verge on mannerism, while some tempi hover below their ideal speed, although I suspect that this would not be a problem in the concert hall. Bass textures tend to be rather too bold, although this is probably the recording rather than the pianist. An enjoyable recital nonetheless. Christopher Dingle