ERIK SATIE: Nearly Complete Piano Works – Klara Körmendi, piano – Naxos (5 CDs set)

by | Jun 5, 2014 | Classical Reissue Reviews

ERIK SATIE: Nearly Complete Piano Works – Klara Körmendi, piano – Naxos 8.505237 (5 CDs in jewel boxes) [10/13/13] ****:

Satie was a brilliant pianist and composer and an important part of the avant-garde in Paris in the early part of the 20th century. Just as upon his death (cirrhosis of the liver) all sorts of unpublished/ forgotten music was discovered behind his piano and elsewhere in his apartment, new works are being found occasionally, so this can’t really be all of Satie’s piano, but close to it. (One was a piece which he was sure he’d left on a bus and lost.)

Some of the untitled works found after this death became the famed Gymnopedies, and there are also the beautiful Three Nocturnes and then the Ogives, which were inspired by Notre Dame. He was definitely an eccentric character, and some of his compositions laid the groundwork for later movements such as minimalism and the Theatre of the Absurd. He called himself a “gymnopedist” and a “phonometrician.” His sense of humor is strong in the titles of many of his pieces. Satie also wrote a great deal, contributing to many different publications (and not just music publications), early on using various pseudonyms for himself.

The collection was compiled from five separate volumes of Satie’s piano music on Naxos. While there’s considerable competition out there in some of this music on piano, including the lovely set of most of his piano works on Decca featuring Thibaudet, Klara Körmendi has done previous albums of Debussy and Ravel and demonstrates a really fine grasp of Satie’s music. She is Hungarian and has a wide repertory, with special interest in contemporary music. She has recorded for Hungaroton and Naxos. I may still play the super-slowed-down Satie pieces on the two Philips CDs by Reinbert De Leeuw when I’m in the mood, but Körmendi does a terrific job on the wide variety of Satie here—from the serious compositions to the wild music-hall ditties the composer most have spun off, often in a drunken stupor at the keyboard. It’s nice to hear them at normal tempi and the sonics are better than the De Leeuw CDs.

—John Sunier

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