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Work

Erik Satie

Erik Satie Composer

Fantaisie-Valse   

Performances: 4
Tracks: 4
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Musicology:
  • Fantaisie-Valse
    Year: 1885
    Genre: Other Keyboard
    Pr. Instrument: Piano
The Fantaisie-valse for piano, one of Erik Satie's earliest keyboard works, was composed in 1885 and appeared in 1887 in the publication La Musique des Familles alongside the equally charming piano piece Valse-ballet, Op. 62—an opus number arbitrarily chosen and audaciously high. The preface to the two pieces likewise exhibits a surprisingly winkish confidence for so young a composer, declaring the works "elegant in construction, graceful in rhythm, and free of youthful awkwardness. All [that is, at this point, both] the composer's works...show a leaning towards reverie and a tendency to avoid the rigid laws of symmetry." Thus, Satie demonstrates early on compositional tendencies that will characterize his oeuvre as a whole: a rejection of both romantic emotional excess and modern expressive austerity; an unashamed adoption or evocation of both classical tradition and popular styles, tweaked just enough to avoid kitsch; and a talent for endearingly unburdened melodies.

All the qualities advertised in the preface to the 1887 score are to be found in this short piece. As in virtually all of his earlier piano works, the Fantaisie-valse maintains a light texture and lilting feel throughout, lent extra rhythmic character by casual syncopations and ragtime-like hemiolas. The main melodic line of the opening section follows a long, scalar ascent, then hovers in syncopated figuration, while bold chordal interludes leading into and out of the more clearly etched contours of the inner sections. By "reverie," the prefatory writer (perhaps the composer himself) likely refers to the easygoing quality of the piece's harmonic trajectory, which rarely encounters dissonance or strays far from its tonic center. The piece does have an overall structural shape that would seem to belie Satie's supposed resistance to imposed "symmetries," but on a more local level one hears phrases that expand and contract to irregular lengths, often in tandem with some melodic gesture, thus subtly skewing the four-square, antecedent-consequent phrase structure that one might presuppose from the steady oom-pah-pah of the accompaniment.

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