29 November 2009
Tiered cakes, pears and desiccated embryos. The titles of Erik Satie's works are as odd as his performance directions. "Postulate deep inside yourself" reads one, and the idea of private gesture is central to the latest release from Katia and Marielle Labèque. Here Katia's lyricism and rhythmic drive are the foil to Marielle's looser style. Performed with birdsong accompaniment, "Sports et Divertissements" is the must-hear, while the raucous "Pièces montées" will startle those expecting the unruffled beauty of the "Gymnopédies" and "Gnossiennes".
"This is a pure, uncut serving of what the Labeque Sisters are all about, perhaps the greatest four hand piano performers out there or maybe ever. Driving deep into the works of Satie, they go well beyond his well known ‘greatest hit’. With a passion and fire not normally associated with Satie, they give his works not only a proper showing but a proper airing as well. A rapturous performances that’s as visual as an audio recording can be, any piano fan, whether classical or not, will know this is the kind of set you just have to show off to your friends and make them believers as well. Killer stuff from the titans of the keyboard."
The latest from the fabulous piano twins on their own label is a delightful collection of piano works for either two or four hands from the pen of that quirky little Parisien, Erik Satie. The sisters had long admired and enjoyed the witty little works of Satie, but hadn’t really gotten into them until preparing for this recording. They approached the music separately, and came together on some of the four-hand works. Satie worked totally alone for most of his life and didn’t get performances until very late in life. So he adopted the habit of noting down his moods and feelings right in his scores so he could recall them more easily. Thus, we find little instructions in the sheet music, such as “Open Your Head,” and “On the Tips of Your Thoughts.”
The musical and literary wit of Satie is all over these well-known pieces of his. Until Satie, composers always gave serious titles to their works. Satie’s titles show his ascerbic wit and often obscure references, such as his Dried Embryos of Edriophthalmians - the latter is a type of crustacian. The music also “dries out” the theme of Chopin’s Funeral March, giving it a bright C Major key to completely transform it. The Genuine Floppy Preludes for a Dog, played by Marielle, don’t sound a whit floppy.
The piano duets allow the sisters to deliver their best super-precise and synchronized style - whether they be sitting at one keyboard or at separate ones, as on many of their other recordings. The first set, Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear, makes fun of old fogeys devoted to moth-eaten academic forms and also conjures up the image of a rotating pear-shaped toy top. The last group of duets, Three Rising Little Pieces, was inspired by the stories of Gargantua and Pantagruel and as the title suggests, has many references to the culinary arts. A Piéce Montée is tiered cake.
Sonics are great, the digapack packaging is nicely decorated, but please, ladies, don’t print the note booklet all in caps!
23 October 2009
Most people are unhappy if things go pear-shaped, but Erik Satie was an exception. His Three Morsels In The Shape Of A Pear comes second on this disc by Katia and Marielle Labeque, on which the dazzling French sisters generally play separately. They combine for some duets, but mostly divide up the pieces according to individual temperaments. The resulting recordings are astonishing.
Friday, 9 October 2009
The Labèque sisters here offer a blend of Satie's work for both two and four hands, with the solo pieces divvied up according to compatability.
Marielle's firmer, more dramatic touch is well suited to the cluster of 20 miniatures which comprise the Sports et Divertissements, where impact has to be delivered in short bursts of sometimes less than 20 seconds, while the Trois Gnossiennes, Satie's most mysterious melodies, are realised with limpid delicacy by Katia, who also contributes the rarely-performed 4th, 5th and 6th Gnossiennes. Together, the sisters are best matched on the curious Trois Morceaux en Forme de Poire, where Marielle's sparse, harder chords spike Katia's more reflective figures.