Erik Satie

En habit de cheval (In riding habit), 4 pieces for piano duet (or orchestra)

    Description by Alexander Carpenter

    En habit de cheval consists of four pieces for piano duet, two fugues and two chorales: "Choral," "Fugue litanique," "Autre choral," and "Fugue de papier." These pieces are contemporaneous with a number of pieces written in the years following Satie's studies with D'Indy and Albert Roussel at the Scuola Cantorum. Satie's return to school in 1905-in order to gain a firm grounding in theory and counterpoint-resulted in a number of contrapuntal works in traditional forms, including the Apercus disagreables, another collection of fugues and chorales for piano duet. En habit de cheval was completed during the summer of 1911. Satie gave the pieces to his former counterpoint teacher Albert Roussel for his consideration, and according to Satie, he approved of them, particularly the fugues. The two chorales in this work are actually quite small; it is the fugues which contain most of the interesting material. Harmonically, they are adventurous, as they mix modal and tonal harmonies. More importantly, as musicologist Eric Gilmor has pointed out, Satie uses traditional form and harmony, but turns it "on its head" by inverting "the traditional tonic-dominant axis" in the fugal subject and answer; in the work's second fugue, the fugal subject begins on the subdominant, instead of the tonic, and is answered by the tonic. Gilmor characterizes this work as not one of Satie's "more endearing creations." What is important about En habit de cheval is Satie's orchestration of it later in 1911-12. The two pianos are replaced by two flutes, oboe, English horn, two clarinets, two bassoons, sarrusophone, two horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, contrabass tuba, and strings. The opening choral uses the largest forces, while in the final two pieces the scoring is reduced. En habit is an example of Satie as a neophyte "phonometrographer-on who measured the loudness of sounds by subjective comparison." This self-imposed title was intended as a joke of sorts, but was perhaps also, as Robert Orledge has remarked, a "smoke-screen in the uncertain period" between 1911 and 1912. Satie's careful "phonometric" work balancing the instruments in En habit marked the beginning of a new direction for Satie, towards his "fantaisiste" period, as Orledge has noted, and away from the rigid formalism of the Scuola Cantorum.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Chorale
    2. Fugue litanique (Litanical Fugue)
    3. Autre chorale
    4. Fugue de papier (Paper Fugue)

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Sony Classical 88875177492
    2016 Brilliant Classics 95350BR
    2016 Erato 555263
    2016 Sony Classical 88875192922
    2015 Erato / Warner Classics 0825646047963
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099967815326
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099968582
    2010 EMI Classics / EMI Classics / Warner Classics 50999906820
    2008 Everest 014
    2006 EMI Music Distribution 41444
    2006 Naxos 8 552137/8
    2005 Audiophile Records 018
    2005 Artemis Classics 1612
    2003 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243585602
    2003 EMI Classics
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 74534
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 568994
    2000 Connoisseur Society 4218
    2000 Decca 455401
    2000 Mandala 4975/79
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 73705
    1996 Mandala 4882
    1995 Accord 200902
    1995 Fleurs de Lys FL2 3040
    1995 Naxos 8 550699
    1994 Mandala 4821
    1993 Disques Pierre Verany 792091
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 67282
    Accord 201022
    Adda 590020
    Brilliant Classics 9129
    Ades 20384
    Vox 5107