Erik Satie is a revolutionary composer. His work built the foundations on such artistic avant-garde movements as minimalism and applied repetition at least 75 years before these movements emerged. Unlike most artists, not every composer understands Satie and their interpretations of his work reflect that. An apt paradigm of this would be the most renowned versions of his gymnopédies as performed by Pascal Rogé where Satie’s delicate piano arrangements are perceived as heartwarming and consistent melodies. Reinbert de Leeuw, conversely, construes Satie differently.
Reinbert de Leeuw presents us to a fresh, honest and previously unseen side of Satie where he dissects every note to reveal what is essentially the beauty of Satie’s work. The music here is much more serious too as every subtle chord has been reduced and hindered where every tone resonates and leaves me in solace and anticipation to absorb the relieving subsequent note. Interestingly, it is not what is there that makes these compositions so rewarding, but what’s not there; wherever there is silence, ethereal atmospheres follow which divulges why many consider Satie to be a true percusor of modern ambient music.
But fundamentally, how do de Leeuw’s covers differ from other performers? I admit to believing that Aldo Ciccolini plays the piano works from the perspective of Satie’s humour which, in contrast to de Leeuw’s variations, I’m not in favour of. Rogé’s have been abused by the media as these pieces tend to follow the conventional procedure of simple and traditional piano works, absolutely conforming to the banalities of accessible advertising and thus lacking the experimentation which I recognise as being one of the music’s finest qualities. De Leeuw’s slow pace evokes significance in the music and creates a spiritual connection between the music and the listener, and never fails in providing for an enjoyably comforting and satisfying experience.