Satie: Complete Piano Music / Veen

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The protean and prolific Jeroen van Veen turns his attention to Erik Satie’s complete piano works for a 9-CD boxed set that ties in with...
The protean and prolific Jeroen van Veen turns his attention to Erik Satie’s complete piano works for a 9-CD boxed set that ties in with the composer’s 150th birthday year. In a way, the collection is completer than complete. It includes all of Satie’s published and unpublished works for solo piano and piano duo, piano arrangements of theater scores as Le fils des étoiles, Darius Milhaud’s transcription of Cinéma (the Entr’acte from the ballet Relache), plus van Veen’s duet arrangement of the first and third Gymnopédies in Debussy’s versions (replete with added arpeggios, percussive effects, and such). Van Veen also restores Parade’s opening Choral from the orchestral version that Satie omitted from his four-hand edition.

As if that weren’t enough, the final disc is given over to Vexations, the little piece Satie asks you to play 840 times in succession. Van Veen goes through it 47 times in 79 minutes, enough to make the point without having to endure 840 repetitions. However, should you feel shortchanged, Brilliant Classics has released a companion 18-disc set containing van Veen’s “complete” 23-hour-and-52-minute Vexations performance, but that’s another story, and another review.

As a Satie interpreter, van Veen shares with Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Aldo Ciccolini a kind of classical reserve without which the music can sound silly on the surface. However, he lacks these pianists’ brashness and dry wit in such ironically upbeat fare as the eight little pieces for Le piège de Méduse or Sur un casque from Descriptions automatiques. In slower selections such as the Gymnopédies and the Gnossienness, van Veen often favors dangerously drawn-out tempos, while playing down the expressive variety in larger multi-movement collections like the Sports et divertissements and the Douze petits chorals.

Still, van Veen’s beautiful and texturally varied sonority, his long-lined sensibility, and his intense focus draw you in. Sample the Nocturnes’ sustained, almost otherworldly serenity, or the subtle spacing of notes throughout the Véritables préludes flaques, and you’ll hear how completely and masterfully van Veen conveys his intentions, abetted by superb, full-bodied sonics. Sandra van Veen joins her husband for the piano duo selections, which stem from an earlier Brilliant Classics release that received a 10/10 rating from yours truly. The pianists’ airtight synchronicity, wide palette of articulations, and dapper stylishness remain reference-worthy.

In sum, while one might question van Veen’s conceptions of certain works as minimalist prototypes, the man’s awesome control and seriousness of purpose cannot be ignored. His fascinating and riveting pianism is well worth Brilliant Classics’ attractive budget price.

– ClassicsToday (Jed Distler)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: May 27, 2016

  • UPC: 5028421953502

  • Catalog Number: BRI95350

  • Label: Brilliant Classics

  • Number of Discs: 9

  • Composer: Erik Satie

  • Performer: Jeroen van Veen, Sandra van Veen