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Work

Erik Satie

Erik Satie Composer

3 Mélodies of 1916

Performances: 7
Tracks: 17
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Musicology:
  • 3 Mélodies of 1916
    Year: 1916
    Genre: Solo Song / Lied / Chanson
    Pr. Instrument: Voice
    • 1.La Statue de bronze
    • 2.Daphénéo
    • 3.Le Chapelier (after Alice in Wonderland)
These three songs for high voice and piano have the distinction of being the only musical works Satie completed in 1916. Satie had already established himself as a composer of quirky individuality who was notably disinclined to aim for sublimity in music. Years of service as a music hall pianist combined with the study of Rosicrucianism and the remarkable choice he made at the age of forty to enter the Schola Cantorum of Paris gave Satie a musical and intellectual style that was quite unique. Satie&rsquoi;s slender catalogue of songs include several that are inspired by his cabaret background, as well as a few fragile and tender love songs, and one or two that are downright absurdist. Other than the date of their composition and a generally light-hearted, even silly air, these three songs have little in common. They were written for Satie's good friend, the soprano Jane Bathori, who had specialized throughout her career in performing new music, and who later premiered his dramatic work for soprano and chamber orchestra, Socrate.

"The Bronze Statue" opens with a rollicking, dance hall introduction which settles down to an "oompah-ing" ostinato rhythm as the voice enters. Like many of Satie's mélodies, this one seems deliberately to avoid any sense of linear structure. It is as charmingly aimless as the text, which describes the boredom of a bronze frog, into whose mouth passersby toss coins during a game of "tonneau." The text of "Daphénéo" was written by the seventeen year old daughter of Satie’s friends, the Godebskis, and depends for its intelligibility on an untranslatable pun: eliding a final "n" turns "un oisetier" (a nonexistent word meaning "bird-tree") into "un noisetier," or "hazel-nut tree." The music, again, is almost aggressively "unmelodic," with a lulling, lazy quality in its rocking repetitiveness. "Le Chapelier" is noted "genre Gounod," and is in fact based on a folk melody Gounod used in his opera Mireille. Here we see the quality of vocal virtuosic excess run absolutely amok, the melody covering a span of almost two octaves in its first four bars, the accompaniment cheerily bounding around in compound meter, a highly Gounodian touch.



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