Erik Satie

Les valses (3) distinguées du précieux dégoûté (3 distinguished waltzes of a disgusted dandy), for piano

    Description by John Keillor

    Erik Satie completed Les 3 Valses Distinguées du précieux dégoûté for solo piano in the summer of 1914. They are musical portraits of an effete dandy; his waist, his spectacles and his legs are all illustrated with a humorous, surrealistic lilt. Each waltz is true to the commonly held impression of Satie as a musical prankster whose brilliance is an affront to the respectability of his field, particularly because it is difficult to pin down exactly what makes his work so original and beautiful. The jokes that surround the music lace it with the possibility of posturing, of using mere cleverness to conceal a lack of talent. What is more, there is little attempt to fight the impression that this part of his personal sense of humor. Satie was never a poser, but he was rather self-conscious of his lack of a more refined, fluent technique, such as Debussy's. The humor seems to challenge the listener to find emptiness where there is none. Nor is his music lush and limitless like that of his good friend Debussy.

    The first movement of Les 3 Valses Distinguées du précieux dégoûté, "Sa taille" (the waist) includes in the score a quote from La Bruyère, attacking those who would substitute truth for humor. In essence, it is a quotation that deconstructs the reservations some listeners might have about the composer and his music. Satie goes on to illustrate the witticism further. The commentary in the music depicts the dandy looking in the mirror, humming a tune from the fifteenth century, thinking himself handsome. He is completely confident that a certain royal female will fall victim to his charms tonight. His grip is at his waist in a winning posture. All this information creates an informal, accidental tone poem, but these notes are not intended that way. The text is not poetry, but the scene Satie describes is an ironic regard for himself. Neither the man nor his music was in the least bit shallow or lacking merits. The score itself is free of bar lines, and has an understated fluency that is a marvel but does with a concealed seriousness that works with its own, high level of invention with great integrity. The extended notes that come with his scores are not necessary for enjoying the music, but they are fun and smart. What they do is create a shield of text that conceals an absence of musical mediocrity. This is a powerful irony, simple yet sophisticated, and indicative of the wonderful aesthetic world that Satie's legacy holds for the listener.

    The second waltz is "Son binocle" (his glasses) which suggests that the arrogant dandy is the composer. More texts occur in the score beginning with a quote from Cicero, banning the nudity of young men in the public baths. This is followed by a depiction of the dandy cleaning his glasses that were a gift from a beautiful woman. He is saddened that he lost their case. The final movement is "Ses jambes" (his legs). Beginning with a quote from Cato concerning the responsibilities of land-ownership, Satie goes on to describe an absurdly absurd depiction of the dandy's self-love and admiration of his own legs. The music is brilliant, glowing, and funny. Satie's genius is harder to understand than it is to appreciate.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Sa taille (His Waist)
    2. Son binocle (His Spectacles)
    3. Ses jambes (His Legs)

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Sony Classical 88875177492
    2016 BIS BIS 2215
    2016 Brilliant Classics 95350BR
    2016 Erato 555263
    2016 Sony Classical 88875192922
    2015 ATMA Classique ACD 22683
    2015 Erato / Warner Classics 0825646047963
    2014 Skarbo DSK 3135
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290871015
    2013 Praga PRD 250299
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099967815326
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94087
    2011 Warner Classics 672411
    2011 Warner Classics 2564672635
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099968582
    2010 Sony Classical 88697720132
    2009 Harmonia Mundi HMC902017/18
    2009 Harmonia Mundi 902017
    2008 Virgin Classics 22050
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93559
    2007 LTM 2406
    2006 Saphir Productions 1066
    2006 Transart Live 134
    2006 Analekta 23146
    2006 Naxos 8 552137/8
    2005 Ddd 99384
    2003 Ensayo 9702
    2003 Sony Classical 87280
    2003 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243585602
    2003 Decca 000023002
    2003 EMI Classics
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 74534
    2002 Forlane 16591
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 568994
    2000 Mandala 4975/79
    2000 Naxos 8 556688
    1998 Denon Records 17019
    1995 Naxos 550698
    1994 BIS 317
    1994 Mandala 4821
    1993 Dynamic 102
    1993 Disques Pierre Verany 789105
    1993 Virgin / Virgin Classics 59296
    1992 Vox 5011
    1992 SBK Records 48283
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 67282
    1989 Hyperion CDH55175
    1989 Hyperion CDA66344
    1989 Decca / London 421713
    Accord 201022
    Accord 221362
    Virgin Classics 62363
    Brilliant Classics 93559/3
    EMI Music Distribution 62017
    Nuova Era 7202
    Collins Records 10532
    Collins Records 1053
    Fanfare 3439