As I was walking along the River Exe yesterday, I fell into a rêverie watching Impressionistic reflections of trees and the sky on the surface of the water. . . .
The lingering despair of Erik Satie’s Gnossienes and Gymnopédies are among the most affected compositions for piano from the 19th century. Trois Gymnopédies (1888 ) were probably inspired by a decoration on a Greek vase. Satie’s interest in Mediaeval music shows in the simple plainsong-like harmonies of these pieces. Collectively, the Gymnopédies are regarded as the precursors to modern ambient music – gentle yet somewhat eccentric pieces which, when composed, defied the classical tradition.
Although the collection of chords at first seems too complex to be harmonious, the melody soon imbues the work with a soothing atmospheric quality which, decades later, would inspire Brian Eno, the pioneering figure of ambient music. Eno would cite Satie as his prime influence.
Gymnopédie No. 3 is is a minor key version of Gymnopédie No. 1 and meant to be played ‘lent et grave’, slowly and solemnly. If played as it is intended, the texture of this piece is as smooth as silk: calming, reflective, ethereal, relaxing, soothing, and elegant.
Pianist Pascal Rogé transmits the fragility of Satie’s piano works with his delicate phrasing and the artistic quality of his pianism. A very comprehensive survey of Satie’s piano works including the gorgeous Nocturnes can be found on a Decca recording by Rogé unfortunately titled “after the rain . . . the soft sounds of Erik Satie.”
“Pascal Rogé has real feeling for this repertoire and conveys its bitter-sweet quality and its grave melancholy as well as he does its lighter qualities. ” Penguin Guide
Further discussion about Rogé playing Satie can be found at a Swedish site called SatieMart.