• Obscure, and often ridiculed during his lifetime, Erik Satie, the most unusual protagonist of the early 20th century French avant-garde, has transcended cult status and is now a composer whose modernity is at last appreciated.
• Satie’s inimitable, bare and serenely objective music was largely neglected until the eclectic 1960s and ’70s when such pioneering figures as John Cage, who was enthralled by the composer’s desire to tear up the rule-book, to embrace the absurd and the surreal, and to blend low and high art, and Brian Eno, who proclaimed Satie to be “the first ambient composer”, fell under his spell.
• On hearing French pianist Jean-Joël Barbier’s recordings of Satie, Peter Kraus realised the possibilities of transcribing the music for the classical guitar. Peter began with the Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes for solo guitar. The greater complexity of such works as the Pièces Froids led him to transcribe for two guitars, inviting fellow Los Angeles guitarist Mark Bird to collaborate. Experimentation and revision ensued with “Satie for Two Guitars” the impressive result.
• In this edition, Satie for Two Guitars is complimented by an intensely coloured, very French recording of the composer’s music for the controversial ballet Parade in a performance by the conductor Louis Fremaux with the Orchestre National de l’Opera de Monte Carlo.
• Parade’s scenario was written by Jean Cocteau in 1916-17 for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes with costumes and sets designed by the then-cubist painter Pablo Picasso and choreography by Léonide Massine. The public were outraged by Satie’s score which included typewriters and a foghorn and a considerable scandal ensued culminating in a short prison sentence for the composer.
• Our programme is completed by Gaby and Robert Casadesus’ recording of the Trois morceaux en forme de poire (Three Pieces In The Shape Of A Pear), Satie’s eloquent riposte to a critic who had accused Satie of writing formless music.
• Trois morceaux en forme de poire is a perfect example of the cinematic quality of Satie’s music, being used effectively in Terrence Malick’s celebrated directorial debut Badlands and liberally by Orson Welles in The Immortal Story along with the ‘Gnossiennes’ which are also performed by Johnny Mandel in Hal Ashby’s Being There and and is heard in Louis Malle’s sublime Le Feu Follet (The Fire Within). Through television advertising and its appearance on the soundtrack of such films as Woody Allen’s Another Woman ‘Gymnopédie No. 1’ has become one of the world’s most recognisable melodies.