Other Matters: Ciccolini Plays Satie

Many Rifftides readers may be familiar with Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédie No. 1” because performers including Jessica Williams, Jacques Loussier, Ximo Tébar and Herbie Mann with Bill Evans have recorded jazz or near-jazz versions of that classic of French music. It has not become a jazz standard, but it has assumed a modest place in the repertoire. For those who have not heard the piece as Satie wrote it in 1888, here it is, played by the eminent Satie interpreter Aldo Ciccolini. The performance is from a 1979 Canadian broadcast.

At 85, Ciccolini continues to perform Satie, Debussy, Ravel, Janáček and Schumann, among others. This collection contains most, if not all, of his recordings of Satie’s music.

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  1. says

    The most famous version of this piece was recorded in the late ’60s by the jazz-rock group Blood, Sweat & Tears. Probably as a result of the popularity of that recording, the piece was also used as background music for (if memory serves) a Maxwell House coffee commercial.

  2. Peter Bergmann says

    Satie was a wizard, a forerunner, a modest, witty, desperate, charming, controversial and acid person, one of the truly greats of 20th century’s music. Cage admired him, Mozart would have loved him.

  3. says

    Fans of that magical era a Paris–fin de siecle to rumbustious Twenties–have loved the composer and treasured the pianist’s stylish and smile-inducing interpretations for 50 years now. (I say 50 though Satie died in 1924 because he was largely a forgotten figure, vaguely known as bizarre mentor to composers Les Six, until Aldo sat down at the keyboard and began tickling keys and listeners everywhere.) Many Classical performers, and a few in Jazz, have essayed the Grand Old Man, but with Ciccolini, the first and likely still the best, it’s Satiesfaction guaranteed. (Sometimes puns are accurate statements and not just half-witty word play.)

  4. says

    As a jazz pianist of classical training, I know and admire both Satie and Aldo Ciccolini.
    On my first recording, “Solo Duo Trio”, I perform a version of Mancini’s “Moon River” which maps the first part of Satie’s “Gymnopédie 1” onto the Mancini song. The harmonies are closely similar. It works quite well.

  5. Bob Blumenthal says

    Also worth noting are Yusef Lateef’s 1965 recording, and the classic 1984 album by the Vienna Art Orchestra, “The Minimalism of Eric Satie.” The VAO disc (which, granted only contains “Gymnopedie No.3”) was reissued by hat Art this year, if I’m not mistaken.