Erik Satie

La belle excentrique, "serious fantasy" for orchestra (or piano, 4 hands)

    Description by Alexander Carpenter

    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.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Grande ritournelle (Grand Ritornello)
    2. Marche franco-lunaire (Franco-Lunar March)
    3. Valse du mysterieux vaiser dans l'eil (Waltz of the Mysterious Kiss in the Eye)
    4. Cancan Grand-Mondain (High-Society Cancan)

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Brilliant Classics 95350BR
    2016 Erato 555263
    2015 Harmonia Mundi / Little Village LVC 69020004
    2015 Erato / Warner Classics 0825646047963
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290871015
    2013 Berlin Classics 0300537BC
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099967815326
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94087
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099908520821
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099968582
    2010 EMI Classics / EMI Classics / Warner Classics 50999906820
    2010 EMI Classics
    2009 Harmonia Mundi 902017
    2009 Harmonia Mundi HMC902017/18
    2009 Indesens 016
    2008 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 567239
    2008 Virgin Classics 22050
    2006 Virgin 363296
    2006 EMI Music Distribution 41444
    2005 Audiophile Classics 101053
    2003 EMI Classics
    2003 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243585602
    2003 Decca 000023002
    2003 EMI Classics
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 74534
    2001 Virgin 61846
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 568994
    2000 Decca 455401
    2000 Angel Records 67260
    2000 Mandala 4975/79
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 73705
    1999 Al Segno 2006
    1999 Blue Saphir 1009
    1998 Denon Records 17019
    1996 London 443897
    1995 Fleurs de Lys FL2 3040
    1995 Naxos 8 550699
    1993 Denon Records 1289
    1993 Virgin / Virgin Classics 59296
    1993 Disques Pierre Verany 792091
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 67282
    I.L.D. 642111
    Accord 201022
    Erato 85827
    Marina Porchkhidze & Vladimir
    Carlton 3007
    Virgin Classics 62363
    Brilliant Classics 9129
    Accord 220742
    Vox 5107
    London 425210