Reinbert de Leeuw

Uspud: Reinbert de Leeuw Plays Erik Satie

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Erik Satie, whose eccentricities extended beyond his anomalous music, was deeply involved in the study and practice of Rosicrucianism during the 1890s and for several years was its "official musician," until, after a falling out with one of its leaders, he became the founder and sole member of a new religion, Église Métropolitane d'Art de Jésus Conducteur. During his Rosicrucian years he wrote a number of pieces associated with its philosophy, all of which are played expertly here by conductor, pianist, and composer Reinbert de Leeuw. The largest is Uspud, a half-hour work described as a "Christian ballet," which in three short, grisly acts depicts the conversion, sanctification, and martyrdom of its title character. It's intriguing to hear in this music (as well as much of the composer's other music from the period) the philosophical, if not the specific musical antecedents of some of the elements of Minimalism: an extreme economy of means, an avoidance of academic complexity, and a circumscribed harmonic palette. This music operates within very limited dynamic parameters -- most of it is very soft -- and it has virtually no counterpoint; it consists primarily of simple melodies that sound like they could have been derived from plainchant (except for their odd harmonic proclivities) and Impressionist-flavored blocks of chordal passages. Like minimalism, it is unlikely to provoke neutral or lukewarm reactions; a listener will probably either be beguiled by its charming, artless simplicity or driven out of the room by its maddening, artless simplicity. For listeners who appreciate music largely devoid of much discernible logic or dramatic incident, and who like to focus on subtly shifting patterns and irregular repetitions, this music can be fascinating and rewarding. De Leeuw makes a strong case for it in his attentive, nuanced playing. These are pieces that don't have the suave elegance and regularity of the Gymnopédies, but they could appeal to anyone who appreciates Satie's more off-kilter sensibilities, and the wash of sounds is sometimes ravishing.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Unspud
1 13:39
2 07:57
3 10:25
blue highlight denotes track pick