Erik Satie

Sonneries de la Rose + Croix, for piano

    Description by Alexander Carpenter

    These three piano pieces are interesting, if for no other reason because they were originally printed in red. The three Sonneries, "Air de l'ordre," "Air du grand maitre," and "Air du grand prieur," are all fanfares, intended to be used at meetings of the Rosicrucian brotherhood. The Rosicrucians, under the leadership of the novelist and mystic Joseph-Aime Peladan, were a sect of aesthetes whose artistic aims included the "ruin of realism," and the promotion of idealism. Satie was, for several years, a member of the brotherhood, essentially its court composer as it were. He produced a number of works under the influence of Peladan and his brotherhood, but later distanced himself from the bizarre and eccentric Peladan and his followers.

    Sonneries de la Rose+Croix, like much of Satie's music, features little or no true development. Instead, as Satie scholar Alan Gillmor notes, Satie alters texture and dynamic rather than motives or themes in order to achieve variety. Typically Satiean harmonic structures abound in this work as well, in particular, chains of unresolved triads. Perhaps the most important aspect of this piece, however, is its mathematical proportions, the details of which were first outlined by Gillmor. Gillmor describes Satie's use of numerical symbolism, noting that he was probably influenced in this direction by his friend and contemporary Claude Debussy. In the Sonneries, Satie employs the Golden Section, a particular mathematical ratio dating back to Pythagoras and popularized by French Symbolists in the later decades of the nineteenth century. Satie's use of the Golden Section, or the "divine number," resulted in what Gillmor calls the work's "subtle proportional balance." The Golden Section dictates the proportions of two of these pieces, such that the number of beats in each piece may be divided into two parts, in an approximate ratio of 3:2.

    Ultimately, though Gillmor suggests that finding the Golden Section in these pieces may be mere coincidence, it is also likely that Satie knew exactly what he was doing, taking his cue from Debussy, who had a strong interest in numerological symbolism. Satie also would have been attracted to the use of the Golden Section as a means of structuring music in a nontraditional way, as well as to its connection to the ancient world.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Air de l'Ordre
    2. Air du Grand Maître
    3. Air du Grand Prieur

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Glossa Platinum GCDP 30416
    2017 BIS BIS 2225
    2017 Grand Piano GP 761
    2016 Brilliant Classics 95350BR
    2016 Erato 555263
    2015 Erato / Warner Classics 0825646047963
    2014 Unseen Worlds UW 12CD
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2012 Decca 4783364
    2012 Decca
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94087
    2011 EtCetera Records KTC 1427
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099968582
    2008 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT080901
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93559
    2006 Saphir Productions 1066
    2006 Lt / LTM LTMCD 2469
    2006 Philips 4657706
    2005 Arte Nova 277970
    2005 Audiophile Records 15
    2004 Naxos 8556781
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 85198
    2003 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243585602
    2003 Decca 000023002
    2003 EMI Classics
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 74534
    2002 Legacy 89858
    2002 Forlane 16591
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 568994
    2000 Philips 4681602
    2000 Decca
    2000 Mandala 4975/79
    1999 Mandala 4896
    1998 Arte Nova 27797
    1998 Philips 462161
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 569567-2
    1996 Philips 454 048-2PH
    1994 Mandala 4821
    1994 Naxos 550696
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 67282
    Accord 201022
    MDG 6131064
    Brilliant Classics 93559/2
    Accord 220742