I was impressed with the program notes written by Philip Corner in what was really a small book. His writing was extremely entertaining and informative. The written words really gave a sense of the wit and brilliance of Satie. For example: “Satie is not as great as John Cage would have us believe. Who could be? Certainly not Bach or Beethoven.” My favourite quote has to be: “If his piano pieces are so easy why are they so badly played? […They resist all] added expressivity; they make those who indulge sound ridiculous. Yet nothing is lacking in them.” Corner’s written analysis of each piece reflects the personality of Satie’s music. Critics during the time slandered Satie and called him a “petit maître” alongside Debussy and Ravel. He was not revolutionary in a flamboyant way but cloaked his visions in traditional forms reflected in the more obscure repertoire chosen for these CDs.
A medieval theme is reflected in the selections which are the Ogives, The Feast Given By the Norman Knights to Honour a Young Girl, Preludes of the Nazarene, The Gothic Dances, Fanfares of the Rose+Cross, Chorales. These were all played in a very slow tempo but represented the nature of the music. Gnossienne No.1, Gymnopedies (1,2,3) and the Empire’s Diva didn’t fit the rest of the program but were played in the same tempo. I would have liked to hear more swing in the Gnossienne and Gymnopedies and definitely a more up-beat tempo for the Empire’s Diva, who was a stripper in a music hall. However, I could see a Satie wink in this unique double CD.