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Work

Erik Satie

Erik Satie Composer

La belle excentrique, 'Serious Fantasy'

Performances: 6
Tracks: 20
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Musicology:
  • La belle excentrique, 'Serious Fantasy'
    Year: 1920
    Genre: Other Orchestral
    Pr. Instrument: Orchestra
    • 1.Grande Ritournelle 1
    • 2.Marche franco-lunaire
    • 3.Valse du mystérieux baiser dans l'œil
    • 4.Cancan Grand-Mondain
    • 5.Grande Ritournelle 2
La belle eccentrique is a suite for small orchestra. It numbers among Satie 's many music-hall pieces, written in what musicologists call his "café-concert idiom." This work was created in collaboration with Jean Cocteau and was first performed in 1921. It consists of four short numbers: "Grand Ritornello," "Franco-Lunar March," "Waltz of the Mysterious Kiss in the Eye," and "High-Society Cancan." It is easy to tell that this is a comic work, replete with much silliness and whimsy. Though touted as a "fantaisie serieuse" for small orchestra, it is also a work that may be staged, and Cocteau was involved in the work's original realization. Versions for piano solo and piano duet also exist.

Alan Gillmor, a Satie scholar, has noted that while many of Satie's works possess an ironic humor by virtue of their use of familiar tunes and their witty, eccentric commentary. La belle eccentrique is really a work whose humor lies close to the surface. It has little to offer in the way of subtlety, what with its crashing ragtime and cancan rhythms, stumbling waltzes, and grotesque, bombastic music-hall timbres. The piece is clearly, as Gillmor has noted, a return to Satie's music-hall aesthetic of the turn of the century. The opening of the work, the "Grand Ritornello," provides both an introduction to the work an interlude between the three subsequent movements, which are dances. Since the work is staged, these interludes provide time for dancers to change costumes.

La Belle Eccentrique is important for two reasons. First, it shows, in Debussy's words, how "adaptable" Satie really was, composing adjacent pieces of sharply contrasting style, form, and character despite his critics' claims that he was little more than an amateur. And second, this work demonstrates the importance of melody in Satie's music, and his insistence that, even when using relatively simple popular or popular-inspired melodies, inventive, unpredictable harmonies (rather than those implied by the melodic line) may be employed to accompany them.

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