1986 Penguin Guide, "Pieces
pour Piano" :
Gnossiennes, Gymnopédies, Prélude de "La porte héroïque du ciel", Je te veux, Nocturnes, Pièces froides, Ragtime Parade
Yuji Takahashi recorded these pieces in the mid 1970's and his strong rhythmic feeling and sense of style won him some considerable praise in the BBC's Record Review. The snag is the forward balance and cramped, dry acoustic of the Denon recordings. If you can accept that (and the piano has undoubted presence), then there is much to admire here. But Pascal Rogè's softer contours and more sophisticated coloring, as recorded by Decca, sound much more sensuous.
1986 Penguin Guide, "Erik Satie de la Période Humoristique" :
Avant-dernières pensées, Choses vues à droite et à gauche (sans lunettes), Descriptions automatiques, Embryons desséchés, Préludes flasques (pour un chien), Sonatine bureaucratique, Sports et Divertissements, Les trois valses distinguées du précieux dégoûté, Véritables préludes flasques (pour un chien)
(with Keiko Mizuno on Choses vues….)
These recordings were made in 1979 and, like Yuji Takahashi's earlier recital (Denon 7485) suffer from a very dry recording acoustic, which may theoretically suit music of dry humor but does not beguile the ear. Takahashi's playing is certainly stylish, but some of this repetoire is already duplicated by Pascal Rogé whose Decca recording is much more agreeable and flattering.
< This CD contains reprints of Satie's humorous notes to his musical scores.>
Gramophone Sep 86, David
Fanning, "Erik Satie de la Période Humoristique":
The latest in Yuji Takahashi's ongoing Satie cycle is subtitled "De la Période Humoristique" and takes us in chronological order from the Préludes flasques of 1912 to the Sonatine bureaucratique of 1917. The latter is a witty paraphrase of Clementi Sonatine, a useful reminder that Pulcinella was not the only, and certainly not the first landmark on the road to Neo-classicism. Some may find the Préludes flasques just as amusing, this time for their uncanny avoidance of the interesting (flasques means "flabby", a description the sleeve-note finds less appropriate than I do.)
The Oriental mind is arguably well-attuned to these pieces, the secret being to play them with no sense of humor whatsoever. This Takahashi does admirably, helped by a dry, unatmospheric recording. His inscrutability never once slips; even the histrionics of Embryons desséchés are absolutely po-faced. And, as on the Denon CD of Satie's 4-hand music, there is a priceless bit of lunacy involving an obligato instrument. This time it is Keiko Mizuno who comes on in Choses vues à droite et à gauche (sans lunettes) to give his impression of a three-year-old Suzuki violinist.
Gramophone Jan 86, David
Fanning, "Music for Piano, 4 Hands":
Probably the most valuable item in this collection is the otherwise unavailable Parade arrangement. But the one I enjoyed the most was the "fantaisie sérieuse"(!) on La belle excentrique. This would be treasurable if only for the added bassoon and clarinet parts in the opening "Grande ritournelle" - a stroke of such sublime triviality as could only occur to a special kind of genius. The staightforward friviolity of these pieces inspires playing of great verve.
Shorn of its choreography and its unique orchestral garb, Parade sounds curiously flat. The mixture of sobriety and lunacy still has a Pythonesque appeal - images of respectable city gents breaking into silly walks come to mind - and Takahashi and Planès poker-faced delivery is as good a way as any to present it. But whimsicalities such as the failed fugue in the "Prélude" tend to wear thin, and it is possible to imagine more colorful playing, and more appealing piano sound (the recordings actually date from 1979-80.) Never mind. There is plenty to enjoy in the vexatious dissonances of the Relâche entr'acte, in the gentle Gnossienne-modality of the Trois Morceaux en forme de poire, and even in the bad César Franck harmonies of the Apercus désagréables. As a single-disc compilation of Satie's four-hand piano music this is a valuable issue.
Relâche-Cinéma, Embryons desséchés, Gnossiennes,
Gymnopédies, Je te veux, Trois Morceaux en forme de poire, Parade
(ragtime), Sonatine bureaucratique
Comments from discussion group:
For that dry, clinical sound, Yuji Takahashi on Denon is the best. It's a digital recording from 1979 with no acoustic at all (Satie would approve)