These are moody, quirky, often unsettling, but compelling, readings. At first I was tempted to include the word "grim" in this list, but was dissuaded time and time again by a felicitous and unexpected twist in the music. Duo Campion-Vachon plays these works with metrical accuracy and dogged precision, allowing Satie's voice to emerge cumulatively and quite on its own. Their reading of his piano-four-hands reduction of Parade eliminates the "Choral" (whether this was a decision on the part of the performing artists or on that of Satie, I do not know). Their performance of ' 'Petite Fille Américaine," a.k.a. "Ragtime" in most two-hand versions, is measured and inexorable, the antithesis of Joanna McGregor's vervy
account on Collins Classics 10532. Having known Parade only in its orchestral guise, I find Satie's spiky piano sonorities and the effect of the siren, lottery wheel, water puddles, typewriter, and revolver in that leaner context pleasantly clarifying. The result is considerably more surrealistic in effect than is its orchestral predecessor.
True to form, the Duo Campion-Vachon's performance of Aperçus désagréables (1908-12) is completely unmannered and comes across most disagreeably. The "Pastorale," "Choral," and "Fugue" are at once forbidding and musically satisfying in their austerity.
Trois Morceaux en forme de poire was composed as a piano duet in 1903 and is discograph-ically a comparative rarity. Its trois morceaux apparently comprise seven sections (including No. 7, titled "Repetition"). The opening "Way of Beginning" is largely a transposition of Gnossienne No. 7 of 1897. Satie adds a slow and dispiriting introduction and exploits the wider dynamic range of four hands over two, transforming the dreaminess of Gnossienne No. 7 into something considerably more portentous and nightmarish. The second section, "Prolongation Thereof," is a blustery and harmonically unstable march that ushers in movements I, II, and III, whose affective discourse veers from salon fluff to floating dreaminess, to rage, The three movements are played attaca. "Morover" is a study in haunting minimalism, and "Repetition" at once reprises nothing and everything, providing a one-minute-and-twenty-five-second distillate of the score's more ruminative moods.
En Habit de cheval (1911) reflects Satie's counterpoint studies with Roussel, and his disaffection over the whole enterprise. They are as hard-edged and stark as anything in his oeuvre—Satie manages to stifle his prodigious humanism to an alarming degree.
Trois Petites Pièces montées and La Belle Excentrique are from 1921, making them contemporary with Le Peige de Meduse—Satie at his most playful and rarefied. La Belle Excentrique was composed as a number for the eccentric dancer Caryathis in his Ballroom/Ragtime style. I know the piece from piano two-hands versions by Ciccolini and Armengaud. I am not familiar with its orchestral version. As in the opening section of Trois Morceaux en forme de poire, the work benefits from the added sonority of the second pair of hands. Duo Campion-Vachon gives a bracing and rhythmically deft account of the piece.
The recording is clear and impactful, capturing each register of the piano cleanly and in balance. The performances are crisp, clean, and distinguished by fine ensemble throughout.
FANFARE: William Zagorski Read less