Satie wrote in a variety of styles. Much of his later work (including most of the work with the humorous titles) amounts to a burlesque of salon music of the day, and tends to be charming, often affecting, but on the light side. (There are exceptions, of course, such as the Nocturnes.)
The early pieces grouped on these 2 CDs (which include the famous Gymnopedies) are in a different league. They come from a period in which Satie seemed to be working through spiritual issues, and some were written specifically for the mystical Rosicrucian Order. Satie was pushing the envelope in terms of structure and harmony (although the harmony was not dissonant, but, instead, quite similar to Debussy's experiments of roughly the same time). The music can be repititious (not unlike chant) but with subtle variations (as if a distant--and early--cousin of minimalism). Most of it tends to be meditative and quiet, relatively uncomplicated, and, in that sense, anti-virtuosic. (I should...
Reinbert de Leeuw is the most original piano interpret I have ever heard ! His versions of Eric Satie's famous Gymnopedies are unique, because his plays them so slowly that it is sometimes difficult to recognise them; you re-discover them as you hear him play. This is the perfect approach to play some famous pieces people have heard so many times in a refreshing way. Of course, this is different from the "classic" way to play Satie, as Philippe Entremont did in a definitive way. But Reinbert de Leeuw is really original : it is the slowest interpretation of Satie's pieces. There is a few seconds silence between each note. Reinbert de Leeuw has recorded Satie's pieces twice : his first attempts in the 70's (in ADD) were even slower than the recent (DDD), all made for Phillips. The 1998 Phillips 2 CDs package contains the slowest versions.
Most performers approach Satie's pieces as if they are merely charming miniatures. By taking extremely slow tempi - we are literally talking half speed of what others do - Reinbert de Leeuw brings out the mystic qualities of the piano pieces. These performances are unlike anything you'll hear.
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